Navillera review: Park In Hwan steals spotlight from Song Kang as ballerino with Alzheimer's

Song Kang and Park In Hwan are aspiring ballerinos in Navillera
Song Kang and Park In Hwan are aspiring ballerinos in Navillera.

This review, which contains some spoilers, covers episodes 1-8 of Navillera, which is currently available on Netflix.

Navillera is currently among the top 10 shows on Netflix in Singapore – and I can see why. I haven't cried so much in a while since the first episode of Start Up and throughout Record Of Youth.

Song Kang is Lee Chae Rok, an aspiring ballerino who hopes to reach the top of a profession which, in South Korea, is considered somewhat of an embarrassment and frowned upon when performed by men. By chance, he meets a 70-year-old retired postman, Sim Dok Chul, played by veteran Park In Hwan.

Dok Chul is a father and grandfather who has lived a long and graceful life with successful children. Yet one day, after a dear friend dies without achieving his life dream, Dok Chul decides to pursue his childhood and lifelong dream to become a ballerino.

The series is all about life, and Song Kang embodies all its fire and passion at the cusp of youth, ready to soar to greater heights like the graceful jeté leaps in ballet. On the other hand, Dok Chul is already nearing the cessation of his journey, his shaky legs during an arabesque belying the steady determination of an old man's will to achieve his life's dream to become a ballerino.

Despite Song Kang's star power as the "son of Netflix" and his handsome looks, Park In Hwan is undoubtedly the star of the show. Dok Chul would remind anyone of their own grandfather; slightly doddering, very well-meaning and just so warm and caring.

It is heartbreaking to see his family's initial defiant opposition to Dok Chul's harmless hobby; they all wonder why he can't go into retirement peacefully and just go for hikes in the mountain or watch TV with his wife at home.

But as the series progresses and his wife's displeasure turns into loving support, Dok Chul has to contend with yet another one of life's obstacles; Alzheimer's, a disease of the brain which slowly takes away his memory.

Dok Chul tries to hide it from his now faithful ballet teacher Chae Rok, who still finds out in the end. Having now grown extremely fond of his elderly student, Chaek Rok is torn between telling Dok Chul's family and keeping it a secret.

It is not easy to watch as a loved one's mind goes into decline; Dok Chul starts forgetting where he's put things, he gets lost in an aquarium and starts to forget who Chae Rok is. It is only a matter of time when things start to get worse.

Navillera is definitely worth a watch. For those who have become estranged from their friends, family and loved ones, this drama will light a genuine spark of concern for anyone who has elderly parents or grandparents. It teaches us that we only have a limited amount of time on earth, and life is too short to bear grudges or ignore those who have always held a special place in our hearts.

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