Da Capo is directed by Shim Chan-yang and stars Hong Issac as Tae Il, Jang Ha Eun as Ji Won, along with a group of young actors. It tells a story of Tae Il, a musician who struggled with balancing his work demands and his passion for music. As he misses the time when he enjoyed writing music with his friends, he decides to return to his hometown. There, Tae Il meets his former crush, Ji-won, trying to complete an incomplete track with her help.
Having just read the synopsis of the film, I didn’t know what to expect, all I knew was that it was a musical about a musician and his former crush coming together. I’m also skeptically optimistic about viewing a musical since my previous experiences with musicals have been quite mixed. Therefore, I was pleasantly surprised by how emotionally invested I was towards the main characters of the film. The film follows a simplistic two-story line structure, with the protagonist Tae Il and his dream of completing his old track as the driving force of the narrative, while the story of the “destroyer”, a band that is taught by Ji-won, strives to win the music contest served as a secondary storyline. From the very first moment the two plot intersects, where Tae Il meets the band leader of the “destroyer”, Deok-ho, it became evident that these two characters are very much alike. Furthermore, as the film progresses, Tae Il and Deok-ho’s progression become complementary to each other, in that Deok-ho learns from Tae Il the way to develop lyrics that are personal to oneself, while Tae Il is also motivated by him in finishing the uncompleted track. As such, up to two-thirds of the film, it was quite entertaining to see the two trying to explore their passion for music-making.
To add on to this, while the film is relatively slow-paced, there are many sequences within the film that are extremely fun and heartwarming. For instance, probably the most memorable scene of the entire movie is the “battle scene” between Gi-tae, one of the band members, and Ji-won. It perfectly displays the brilliance of their skills, while also capturing the rawness of rock music from a guitar. The director also reveals that this scene is mostly improvised by the two actors, which I believe is damn impressive. There are also multiple scenes involving the Tae Il and Ji-won at the pier discussing making music during their younger years. And while the cinematography was quite outstanding and that I personally don’t mind long dialogue sequences as long as it is not merely expositions, I could see some people finding these scenes to be relatively dull. The film does offer insights into their memories through photographs taken by Tae Il, but I believe cross-cutting between the pier sequences and “moments” of Tae Il and Ji-won’s past could also strengthen the depths of the characters.
Personally, the second half of act two of the film was the weakest part of the film. This is because this section is much more “by-the-book” compared to the rest of the film: Tae Il gets hired on a new job that he doesn’t like and misses the band’s audition for the competition, and Deok-ho begins wanting to quit the competition. To me, it just felt like I’ve watched it before, and that audience could easily predict what’s going to happen: Tae Il will return and convince Deok-ho to finish the competition. Fortunately, the film was saved by the ending where Tae Il and Ji-won went on stage to perform, I’m especially glad the film did not choose to follow the route of “the character returning just-in-time and wins the competition”. The film did not specify whether this sequence is happening in reality or a dream, due to the scene having a dream-like quality, but it most-definitely served as a magnificent conclusion as the cross-cutting between their performance and their old band unquestionably illustrates how Tae Il finally finds that spark in music that he once had. Moreover, the film did not state whether the band won, nor pan the camera towards the audience to show their responses, which I believe ultimately rendered the emotional impact of that musical performance much more personal and powerful. I remembered seeing people tear up in the theatre, which is to say that the climax of the film provided a soul-stirring experience for viewers.
All-in-all, this was undoubtedly a pleasant viewing experience. It is also apparent that the film, much like the songs within it, is not merely a standard corporate-made film but a movie that is deeply personal to the director and his experience with music. And although this film might not be for everyone, I’m confident that music enthusiasts would particularly be able to resonate with its characters.