We’re Just Like You: Our Review of ‘Coming to You’

Posted in What's Streaming? by - March 22, 2024
We’re Just Like You: Our Review of ‘Coming to You’

Hankyeol (They/Them) lies down on a bed after having top surgery, while their mother, Nabi (She/Her), is sitting by their side. Meanwhile, Vivian (She/Her) attends a PFLAG meeting as she talks about her son, Yejoon (He/Him). Coming To You is a documentary that narrows its focus on mothers, their sons, and the challenges they face. Hankyeol’s surgery is a step towards Korea legally recognizing them as nonbinary and trans, a battle with multiple fronts. Vivian, then, anticipates Yejoon’s return from Toronto after finding a boyfriend after visiting Korea, a return she eagerly anticipates. These four subjects sometimes venture onto the outside world, preaching happiness to a Korean society with Conservative tendencies.

Byun Gyu-ri is a member of PINKS, a group that produces films for the culture and rights of minorities. As a by-product of the group, she approaches, with a certain subtlety, her subjects as they try to live their lives. There’s a mixture of techniques here that viewers see in most documentaries like intertitles. These intertitles explain that Hankyeol’s legal battle takes years and requires the involvement of one supportive parent and another who isn’t. Other moments have lesser contextual help when said scenes don’t require such help, like when Vivian and Yejoon look at pictures. Coming To You‘s message to the world seems to be “Queer people and their families – we are just like you”!

Coming To You, as it does, shows what it’s like to be a member of the queer community. That queer community, though, can sometimes be in opposition to, as I write above, the Conservative Korean society. In one of the film’s sit downs, Hankyeol tells Byun about how the verdict against them is online. Nobody doxxed him or anything, this feels like a legal normality in Korea, but it still feels humiliating. Byun also juxtaposes the relatively happy Pride Parade in Toronto to the protests in Korea with screaming homophobes. There’s a sadness while depicting these protests, although it was nice for Byun to show Vivian clapping back at them.

Byun, and therefore PINKS, takes a respectful, if not melancholic approach to depicting queer subjects. This is in stark contrast to Western depictions of queer people which seem like it’s past respectability politics. But then again, queer people are just naturally sad because our lives seem to be getting more difficult recently. Vivian appears in a press conference, contemplating the fact that queer people have no spousal rights in South Korea. The same goes for Nabi, who cries as she sees the intersection between death rights and queer rights. But thanfully, the film isn’t an outright downer and shows children and parents loving each other, as they should.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watches movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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