Move to Heaven (2021)

By | December 17, 2023

Move to Heaven is a 2021 South Korean television series directed by Kim Sung Ho and written by Yoon Ji Ryun. Spanning 10 episodes, this emotional drama tells the story of Han Geu Roo, a young man with autism who works alongside his uncle at a trauma cleaning service after the death of his father.

Overview and Background

The central premise focuses on Han Geu Roo, a 20-year-old with Asperger’s syndrome who works at Move to Heaven, a business specializing in cleaning up after deaths and organizing the belongings of the deceased to return to their families. Geu Roo exhibits savant syndrome and demonstrates exceptional abilities when it comes to categorizing, sorting, and recalling details, skills that serve him well at his job.

After Geu Roo’s father—the founder of Move to Heaven—passes away, guardianship of Geu Roo transfers to his estranged uncle Cho Sang Gu. A former underground fighter saddled with debt, Sang Gu agrees to work alongside his nephew for three months in order to gain the inheritance left behind. Despite their vastly different personalities, the two form an unlikely bond as they carry out the poignant work of Move to Heaven.

Along the way, Geu Roo and Sang Gu help various clients grieve while also confronting their own emotional traumas. Each episode focuses on a new client case, highlighting different reactions to death, loss, and bereavement.

“This heartwarming story teaches you about life and death through Geu Roo, who is not good at expressing emotions but is excellent at handling the possessions of the deceased.” – Kim Sung Ho, Director

Cast and Characters

Lee Je Hoon delivers a powerful performance as the stoic and straightforward Geu Roo, bringing nuance and empathy to the portrayal of an individual on the autism spectrum. His subtle expressions and gestures reveal deeper emotions under a controlled, logical exterior.

Tang Jun Sang takes on the role of Geu Roo’s uncle Cho Sang Gu, perfectly embodying the gruff, hot-tempered former fighter. Though largely motivated by money at first, Sang Gu later displays growth and compassion as he builds a connection with his nephew.

Additional cast members include:

  • Ji Jin Hee as Geu Roo’s late father
  • Hong Seung Hee as Geu Roo’s teacher
  • Park Ju Hyun as a nightclub employee

Themes and Analysis

Move to Heaven deftly explores several meaningful themes related to grief, emotional healing, and self-discovery:

Coping With Loss

Through Geu Roo and Sang Gu’s work, the series highlights diverse reactions to grieving loved ones. Their cases showcase the deep pain but eventual acceptance involved in mourning. Geu Roo’s logical nature helps clients find closure.

Forgiveness and Letting Go

Many characters harbor regrets, grudges, and anger. By learning clients’ stories, Geu Roo and Sang Gu gain perspective and become more forgiving towards others and themselves. This facilitates healing.

Finding Purpose

Both Sang Gu and Geu Roo lacked direction initially but found purpose in Move to Heaven’s meaningful work. This suggests everyone has something valuable to contribute, no matter their personalities or past mistakes.

Ultimately, the series emphasizes the universality of grief while affirming life’s capacity for hope despite loss.

Behind the Scenes and Production

Move to Heaven is adapted from the nonfiction essay “Things Left Behind” authored by professional trauma cleaner Kim Sae Byul. Screenwriter Yoon Ji Ryun expanded upon this essay to create the drama series.

Location filming took place primarily in Seoul, South Korea. The production process involved meticulous research into trauma cleaning services to authentically portray Geu Roo and Sang Gu’s work.

Since its May 2021 premiere on tvN, Move to Heaven has earned critical praise, particularly for its emotional impact and acting performances. The role required lead actor Lee Je Hoon to carefully study individuals with autism to respectfully depict Geu Roo.

Response and Legacy

Move to Heaven resonated strongly with South Korean and international viewers alike. The series holds a 9.1/10 audience score on MyDramaList, ranking in the top 15 highest-rated Korean dramas.

Critics applauded the drama’s ability to deliver a thoughtful, emotionally affective storyline while sensitively handling the complexities of autism spectrum disorder.

Beyond its quality filmmaking, Move to Heaven left a meaningful cultural impact. It raised awareness around autism and neurodiversity in South Korea while starting thoughtful conversations around death and bereavement.

The immense popularity led producers to consider creating a second season. While not yet confirmed, viewers remain hopeful for a continuation exploring more of Geu Roo and Sang Gu’s profound journeys. For now, Move to Heaven’s first poignant season remains widely available on Netflix.

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