Dear Yoo Ah In,
I’ve been waiting for you all my life.
Do Wan Deuk grew up in a cabaret where his father with a hunchback disability works as a dancer. Carrying the weight of living in a not so affluent life, his temperament is a bit lousy especially if it involves his father.
The cabaret goes off beat through the years and eventually meets its closure. When Wan-deuk learns that his father and his mentally challenged adopted uncle is in the market trying to trade some cabaret items, he rushes to their aid sensing they could be in danger and just as he thought, his father was dragged and ridiculed by, so his blood rushes to avenge the cruel situation he witnessed.
At night, he got a scolding from his father for his brawny act and for his insisting to just stop studying so he can work and help pitch to the expenses.
Wan-deuk attends to a school where his most hated person teaches, Lee Dong Jo. Aside from teaching duties which he doesn’t normally do, his sarcasm skills is exceptional you’ll surely learn a lot from it. To add frustration to the injury, Dong-jo also happens to be their neighbor and for some reason he doesn’t understand, the devil-may-care-attitude of his teacher always picks on him whether it may be on class or in the neighborhood.
Wan-deuk goes home seeing his father and uncle preparing for a dance routine. His father informs him that they will be on the road for a showcase so he has to behave while they are away. He asks Dong-jo to check on him once in a while. The handsome rascal has always been praying for the worst that can happen to his nemesis, and when he was asked by him to attend the church, he realized why his prayers are not answered.
After his regular foul-mouthed blabber to his students, he boringly calls Wan-deuk’s attention and asks him to come outside. He reveals to him about his Filipina mother but not knowing how to react and where his teacher is trying to get to, he runs and mopes on his so called pitiful life.
He arrives home late and is awakened by Dong-jo’s knocks on the door. He reprimands him of running away on things he doesn’t want to hear and understand as they sit in front of beer bottles. Dong-jo explains that he met his mother at the church which helps foreign workers in the city and tells him of her intention of wanting to see her son. But Wan-deuk wants his father’s consent first which made Dong-jo a little mad because Oedipus complex did not hit him at all to grant a simple wish from the woman who gave him his life.
He seeks Divine intervention again and complains of giving such a lousy role model to him. He also whines about his recently acquired birth secret which he doesn’t know how to deal with. He warns Jesus on the Cross that he’ll seek Buddha if he won’t get any help to eradicate Dong-jo in his existence. Now that made me smile…
Wan-deuk attempts to open a conversion about his mother with his father, but they got interrupted by a commotion between Dong-jo and their neighbor who vandalized their newly bought second hand van for the roadshows.
The arrogant-bad-curly-haired neighbor rants on how the vehicle was blocking the door and how he can’t stand the presence of retards in front of him. The magic word ignites Wan-deuk and he crossed the people trying to hold on to him and punches the man who insulted his family.
Dong-jo defends Wan-deuk’s epic punch on city hunter’s ajussi and reasons out the motivation why he threw a punch. In the end, the neighbor let it go after his sister steps in and knocks the hidden common sense in his brain.
At school, the students are passing ero comic drawing starring Yoon-ha. Her sexy manga launches fist fight among the boys as Wan-deuk watches them ramble. When the rage subsides Yoon-ha tears the pages and throws it at the boy fancying her.
Yoon-ha approaches Wan-deuk while he walks home and asks him if they can talk. He brings her to the church to her wondering. He asks what does she want to talk about so she rants her observations of him always doing things alone. She comments that since he normally doesn’t go to school, it’s okay for her to tell him things as he will forget it eventually.
Then she suddenly bursts crying as Wan-deuk gropes what to react. She weeps and narrates to him that she used to go out with Jun-ho and that she caught him drawing those sexy anime pictures that’s why she broke up with him. well at least he’s so creative “kisses and draws”… *giggles. While she’s pouring her heart out, Wan-deuk can’t help but just stares at her chest and when she prays to Jesus for her ex-bf’s death, it made Wan-deuk sighs and insists that his prayer should be prioritized.
“You’ve got a full load, God. But don’t forget I prayed first.”
Yoon-ha calms down and thanks him for listening. At night, he fantasizes her as he stares at the ceiling of his room.
When his male hormones betrays him, he gets up to take a breather and sees his teacher peeping at ajussi’s sister while she’s doing karate movements. He greets the neighbor cutting Dong-jo’s private viewing. The next day at school when Dong-jo gives him an errand, he grins remembering his perv spying last night, but his smile turns sour when he shouts about him meeting his mother at the church.
He carefully surveys the church wishing he’s not gonna bump at his mother, and to his relief the Indian guy comes in to take the stuff he brought. He runs when he sees a Filipina who turns out to be married to the Indian guy only to reach home and sees his real mother for the first time.
He asks her if she wants ramen and invites his long lost mother inside the house. He painfully gapes at her mother’s back and worn out shoes, and at this moment it felt like the restrained emotions Wan-deuk is feeling finds a way out of the TV screen and hits my tear nerves.
They eat ramen as his mother feels sad that her son has been used to just eating ramen. Mother washes the dishes as Wan-deuk secretly looks at her. She departs and leaves a letter for him.
“I’m sorry. I never forgot you. I miss you very much. I’m a bad person. I’m so sorry. I’m sorry I can’t be there with you.”
Wan-deuk fights for the tears brimming on her eyes, but I didn’t fight hard, my faulty tearducts made me cry.
His father monentarily stops what he’s doing when he mentions that a Filipina visits him and left her number. His father pretends he’s not interested and gives him an errand. Wan-deuk tries another conversation opening about his mother by asking why they separated. Father finally gives in and explains that he let her go because she was not happy with his dancing at the cabaret.
WAN-DEUK: That’s it? So you let her go?
FATHER: I hated how everyone there treated her like some servant. Like she was there to do their dirty work.
Wan-deuk draws a deep sigh and walks to step out. While he’s at the door his father telks him that even if his mother came from a poor country, she grew up well-educated.
He steps out and sees the man who orchestrated his fated meeting with the mother and runs to give his teacher a beating. Dong-jo reacts snappily, heads home and locks the door.
They converse behind the door and he asks him why he directs him to their house to which he replies that he never did that and just gave his own address and the information that they are neighbors and that they are not the only neighbors he has. Wan-deuk then thanked his teacher as Dong-jo complains why he curses at him when he just want to be grateful. He asks him to go home and throws a trash for him to settle.
At school in their art appreciation class, the teacher discusses Millet’s painting – The Cleaners. She calls Wan-deuk’s attention about the painting. He replies that the painting screams “What are you looking at?” which makes the whole class laughs.
“The woman at the far right, she’s leering and saying, “what are you looking at?” They look like women find into marriage from poor countries so they needed to be strong to protect themselves. The woman on the far right, she’s about to make a fist to fight the farm owner. The one on the far left pretends to be working, but she’s gonna throw that hay at her opponent’s face. The woman in the middle is a pro, because she’s gonna use a rock. It’s a dirty trick but you fight to win, and those women they received good education in their own countries.
And that ladies and gentlemen is Art debonair Wan-deuk stripping his teacher’s role to explain the meaning of that obra maestra.
Wan-deuk visits the church and Hassan, the Indian guy brings him to the gym to try kick boxing. He spars with an opponent from the gym, and when he corners his opponent he rampages and threw punch after punc h that the gym trainer shouts to halt the fight.
He points out what he lacks as a fighter inside the ring. He adds that he might win in street fights but not in the ring. This motivates Wan-deuk to ask permission to his father if he can try kick boxing, but his father doesn’t want to allow it. He insists on doing what he wants and hurts his father’s feelings by hinting that he can blend in the crowd not because of his dancing, but because people pities and make fun of his disability. Father’s heart was broken and even Uncle Min-ku knows Wan-deuk’s disrespect so he slaps his face lightly.
Aboji mopes at how his hunchback made him so useless in front of rice wine and Dong-jo. The teacher convinces him to just let his son do what he wants to do. The sister of ajussi, Ho-jeong joins them in and drinks when she’s seemingly drunk. She tells them her work as a martial arts writer, but they are interrupted when Wan-deuk comes to fetch his father.
Dong-jo and Ho-jeong carry on with their teasing as the son piggy-back his drunk father muttering how his beloved son has grown up well now.
His training is taking a toll to his body causing him to sleep at school lazily creating another opportunity to lovingly ridicule him. On that same day, Dong-jo is invited for a trip to the police station.
Wan-deuk and Yoon-ha visit their teacher. He was surprised to see the best and the worst paying concern to him. He evades Joon-ha on the reason why he’s being held up and shows a worried face when Wan-deuk says that the people in the church were not there.
They walk home and Wan-deuk suddenly mentions about love letters. The smart Joob-ha picks up easily where he is heading and smiles at the thought that he wrote her one. She asks him to give it to her, and reads it excitedly. waaaa yoo ah in, I want a love letter too!
“Everything I see these days looks like you. The clouds, the flowers, and even the moon.”
Joon-ha teases him and plays catch-me-and-your-letter-if-you-can with him. You lucky girl!
At home, father and uncle min ku see the food prepared by his estranged wife. He smiles when uncle comments that it’s salty.
Wan-deuk brings Joon-ha to the gym, and the trainer finds a purpose for her to do which is to referee his sparring with her boyfriend.
Dong-jo is resurrected and goes straight to his waiting class whom he misses so much. When the girls in front complains he smells, he shortly reminds them to study for the exams and heads to the shower.
Wan-deuk and his family go to check on Dong-jo and he explains to father why he was taken by the police. Apparently, he reported a business man slaving unfairly the illegal immigrants in the city which he’s trying to help. Wan-deuk asks about Hassan, and he replies that he was deported and adds that most illegal immigrants don’t know when their visa expires and some employers take advantage of them.
Wan-deuk realizes that the church is like their gathering place and when he retorts he thought it was a cult that’s why his prayers are not answered, Dong-jo asks him what he prayed for so he evades the question by saying he’s going home.
Wan-deuk continues with his training, his constant grocery catch session with his teacher, and cute moments with Joon-ha. The kickboxing mentor notices he’s already ripe and announces that he’ll spar with a fighter soon.
Wan-deuk arrives home and senses another person in their house. Equipped with his kickboxing skills he lands a punch on the intruder’s rib who happened to be Dong-jo. He carries his injured teacher and summons all the help he can get from the Heavens. He complains that he prays for him to die but not him doing it. hahaha be careful what you wish for.
Dong-jo settles in the hospital, and when Wan-deuk pays a visit he encounters his father who turns out to be the rich man enslaving the illegal immigrants. Dong-jo reported his father’s factory causing disappointment to his father. Dong-jo sees Wan-deuk arriving and trying to give father and son moments with them but he calls him to come in.
Father lectures the sociology teacher to stop helping foreigners and just focus on teaching. His son retaliates by reminding him of his injustice of an old employee who cut off her finger while working but ended going home without proper compensation. Father marches out in anger and frustration of having a son and enemy at the same time.
Wan-deuk wonders why he pretends to be poor when he came from a rich family. He complains about how ironically their lives are different but the teacher made him realize that he should not hold grudges of his parents struggling life. He tells him he’s acting pathetic blaming everyone but not himself.
Wan-deuk heads to leave as Dong-jo reminds him to be good to his mother which he counter reply with him not taking care of his father. Dong-jo winces in discomfort and mutters how his favorite student always gets the last word.
Wan-deuk visits his mother and asks her if she wants to meet his father. They go to the market where his father performs to his father’s shock. His parents engage in a heated discussion involving Wan-deuk so he has no choice but to cut their who’s the best parent debate.
They head home and Wan-deuk enters a shoe store and ask for shoes for his mother. awwww sweet Mother is hesitant to try the shoe, and when her mother tries to get the change, the store keeper mutters how the two of them are together so Wan-deuk retorts that the woman is his MOTHER. you’re up for running as the best son ever Wan-deuk!
While they wait for the train to come in, he asks his mother if she already knew her father’s disability before she came to Korea to become a bride. His mother replies that she didn’t know and it didn’t matter because the goodness of the heart is important to her.
Mother thanks her son for the shoes and he responds by telling her the food she prepares for him is a bit salty and that he doesn’t eat like his father. He also encourages her not to be so nervous everytime.
Mother whispers his name and tells him how she yearns to say his name. She asks if it’s okay for her to embrace him, and he obliges making me no longer able to contain my tears anymore. They hug each other making mother cry and Wan-deuk smiles. Now that Yoo Ah In knows a few things about Filipino culture, I think we are soon gonna meet and get married.
Wan-deuk spars with a superb fighter who knocks him down but leaves him smiling after his defeat. From then on he realized what a real fighter is about. His coach applauds his performance informing him that he fought well against the third best in the district.
Yoon-ha worries if he’s feeling well, and the closeness of their distance dudn’t help Wan-deuk to cross the line and give her a kiss. I want that kiss too.
Yoon-ha is bewildered of the kiss but Wan-deuk can only reply thay they have to go because Dong-jo might arrive. On cue their teacher comes in and catches the two lovey doves sitting close to each other.
Wan-deuk tells him they kiss to his amusement. He inquires what the teacher is doing there and learns that he’s actually a minister there. Wan-deuk is perplex and is in the brink of questioning whether the place is a valid church so the teacher is lefy no choice but to convince him that it was. He tells Yoon-ha that it’s never too late to come to her senses and not to hang out with him but the new almost lovers decide to leave him. Dong-jo follows and asks his student what he did to win over a smart girl’s heart, but he won’t give in so he goes to Yoon-ha.
Wan-deuk’s father visits his estranged wife at her workplace and finally talk about what is best for all of them. Meanwhile at the class Dong-jo lectures sends off hus students to their vacation and remind them that college is not the only college out there. He declares to them that the world is waiting to teach them.
The class is dismissed and when his seatmate asks Wan-deuk if he wants to eat ramen, he makes his first friend connection and agrees.
Wan-deuk goes with his mother to the market to buy food for the new year celebration. They feast on a dinner prepared by mother as ajussi does his usual complaining over the hard to chew chicken that was bought by mother because it’s what her husband likes.
Dong-jo slips a love letter to ajussi’s sister’s book while they eat. Dong-jo asks about the viand he tastes, and father explains that it’s a Filipino food. Ajussi of course didn’t like it and when he’s up to whine, Uncle Min Ku smilingly blabbers a bad word towards him. Wan-deuk tries to cool him down and introduces his retarded uncle and Filipina mother as his family and with some stroke of intervention, he stayed nice and blurts that his good looks came from her mom.
Dong-jo brings out his proposal to aboji of a project he’s trying to launch. To the benefit of the people who didn’t know what they are talking about, he explains that he’s setting up an art business, a dance school at church.
They drink, dance and had fun, and when the night wavers Dong-jo makes a move to sister. She reads the love letter who turns out the same as what Wan-deuk gave Yoon-ha. He approaches her says “iloveyou” and apologizes for being forward and drunk, but she holds his face and kisses him, he stops and kisses her back.
The cultural center is finally open for public, and the whole cast show us a glimpse of having the blessings of struggles and how our friends and family completes the life we decide to have.
When I learned of the teaser of punch I thought it was just a yoda-luke kind of sports movie, I didn’t know that it was sort of family film and that they also incorporated something close to my culture. I’m from Manila, Philippines. When I was studying in college I tutor Korean High School and Grade school students for my part time job, that’s why maybe I became closer to anything Korean-ish, it’s just secondary that the lead men are cute and the stories are so full of love that I became engaged and immersed to their culture, haha nah, it’s actually the primary… When I was in elementary school I already knew that I live in a third world country, but I didn’t care that much because in my young mind, I was not exposed to the realities of life yet.
I am aware that women from poor countries sometimes have no choice but to marry for convenience, and I’m lucky I was able to get another option aside from that. This movie is invoking, and I appreciate that they did not stoop down to immigrants, but instead emphasized on presenting the viewers what a strong person they are to live in a foreign land to survive.
To put up the essence of the movie without giving any aspersions is something the filmmaker should be proud of.
The main actors Wan-deuk and Dong-jo set a new kind of bromance, that which bickers amusingly but accidentally brought out the best of one another.
This was a blithe tale of accepting who you are and what extent you can be by embracing the life you did not choose but fought hard to decide the best shot on it.