Breaking the Tear-jerker Mold: Stories of Loss, Love, and Becoming in Netflix Original ‘Move To Heaven’


Move to Heaven, now streaming on Netflix, poignantly tells the stories of those who have passed on through the heartwarming relationships between a group of trauma cleaners. By unraveling the untold stories of the deceased, the Netflix Original K-Drama is able to explore the raw emotions of those left behind with star-studded cast Lee Je-hoon, Tang Jun-sang, Hong Seung-hee, and a lineup of exciting surprise appearances.

The premise alone of Korean Netflix Original Series Move to Heaven is one that has never been truly represented in mainstream media until now. Following three main characters who navigate the physical spaces left behind by the deceased, the role of “trauma cleaners” in society was dutifully explored, and beautifully portrayed. But there are so many more layers to unravel in this series.

Move to Heaven’s story truly takes flight with the character of Gae-ru, a young man with Asperger’s Syndrome who runs the Move to Heaven trauma cleaning service. After being left alone from a family member’s sudden death, he is taken under the guidance of his uncle Sang-gu, who was recently released from prison. His childhood friend, Na-mu, takes it upon herself to keep an eye on the pair to protect her friend from further pain.

Together, they go through each episode delivering untold stories and messages to the bereaved relatives of those who have passed away, while working through their own personal burdens of grief, guilt, and regret.

Production still courtesy of Netflix

Just from one watch of the trailer and viewers can already tell that this drama is going to hit hard, which is exactly what it intends to do and then some.

This project is actually Director Kim Song-ho’s first venture into series direction. At the streaming service’ APAC regional press conference for the drama’s premiere, he shared that while working on his previous film, it was there that he experienced how great of a power film has in comforting viewers. With the material for Move To Heaven, he felt this same feeling of grabbing that chance to reach out to viewers emotionally with the help of storytelling.

Director Kim Song-ho.
Images courtesy of Netflix

“I was actually unaware of the occupation of trauma cleaners, and when I looked into that—the way these people were able to hear and feel the untold stories of those who have passed on and the amount of power this story must have—I was really moved to direct this series,” he opened up.

In addition, the director shared, “Sometimes, it can be a little difficult and daunting to direct a series that is set up from the beginning to be a tear-jerker, or something that is extremely dramatic. But I thought this is a great material that was going to be able to tell really poignant stories in the most adequate manner.”

Tang Jun-Sang plays Geu-ru in ‘Move to Heaven’
Production stills courtesy of Netflix

“My name is Han Gae-ru from Move to Heaven. I’m here to clean up your belongings. I will now begin your final move.”

These are the words Tang Jun-Sang, who plays Gae-ru, methodically and solemnly recites before proceeding to clean out a dead person’s home, and sorting out their personal belongings. As each person has their own story to tell—and in this case, can no longer fulfill—it presents a rich opportunity to truly dive deep into human emotion when it comes to living and losing a life.

It’s also interesting to witness this emotional responsibility fall on the shoulders of someone who has difficulty in showing how he really feels. Tang Jun-Sang, who viewers might recognize as the youngest member of Captain Ri’s endearing military group from another Netflix global hit, Crash Landing On You, shared putting in extra effort to portray Gae-ru as accurately as he can by researching essays from people with Asperger’s, and watching other shows like The Good Doctor , where the lead is an autistic medical professional with the same syndrome.

Image courtesy of Netflix

As he battles the loss of his loved one, while being reintroduced to an uncle adamant to shake up his world, Geu-ru is faced with challenges he’s never gone through before, and the series tackles this by portraying this difficult ride from his unconventional point of view.

The said uncle, Sang-gu, is portrayed by Lee Je-hoon, with a pompous smile and a taste for trouble. He is often described in the series as a “thug” whose harsh demeanor will gradually crumble as he comes face-to-face with the left-behind lives of people who have run out of time. He teased viewers that there’s more to his character than meets the eye, and alludes to how his relationship with the younger characters are bound to transform his life for the better.

Lee Je-hoon plays Sang-gu in ‘Move to Heaven’
Production stills courtesy of Netflix

“He’s able to grow from his past where he was extremely lonely, [and] where he never got the chance to feel the warmth of other people. When he comes across Geu-ru and Na-mu, and also hearing the stories left untold by the deceased, the character Sang-gu—and the changes and growth he goes through—I think is something that will be relatable to anyone who watches,” he revealed.

Image courtesy of Netflix

The third character to complete the group is Hong Seung-hee, who plays Na-mu. She acts as the protective friend of Geu-ru who distrusts his “thug of an uncle”, and assumes responsibility over keeping an eye on the two. Namu in Korean actually translates to tree, and Seung-hee shared this to the viewers by talking about Na-mu’s deep urge to protect and shield Geu-ru from uncomfortable situations.

“This character (Na-mu) is a friend of Geu-ru since they were very young. She’s been a friend for quite a long time, and Na-mu really likes [him]. She likes all his characteristics, his whole existence,” she said in introduction of her character.

“[However], people have some prejudice against Geu-ru, and Na-mu wants to protect him and shield him away from those prejudices. Basically she wants to be a tree for Geu-ru.”

Hong Seung-hee plays Na-Mu in ‘Move to Heaven’
Images courtesy of Netflix

But of course, the main thrust of Move to Heaven‘s whole plot line revolves around the untold stories of those who have passed away, and the loved ones they have left behind.

Image courtesy of Netflix

With this, the series has brought in both seasoned and fresh faces to portray all these different heart wrenching side stories, and the lineup includes big names such as Ji Jin-hee, Choi Soo-young, Lee Jae-wook, and the list goes on and on for each episode.

Every chapter presents a new story to the series, affecting our main characters in different ways. Because of this rich collection of back stories and gut-punching revelations, viewers’ emotions will definitely go on a wild roller-coaster ride throughout the ten-episode show.

Hong Seung-hee likened the show to the four seasons in its variety of story offerings and passionate exchanges: “When you see the series, I’m sure you’ll feel the same way too. Sometimes you’ll feel warmth. At some points, you’ll feel fire inside you. You are going through a wide range of emotions, and I think that’s why I would say that. And personally, for me, it was something like that as well.”

Anybody who would watch this series truly has to prepare their hearts and boxes of tissue insofar as the emotional storytelling goes. In fact, Lee Je-hoon actually admitted to crying every time he read the script for each episode, as it all packs a serious weight of pain, joy, love, and grief.

Im Won-hee
Images courtesy of Netflix

For a show that dives deep into funeral culture, this series definitely has a lot of life.

This is actually what Director Kim Song-ho personally wants viewers to take away from the show. As much as it tackles death, grief, and loss, he hopes that the audience will realize the importance of life through the show’s social issue-heavy conversations. He also wishes that people will be inspired to reach out more to one another through Move to Heaven, so no one will have to die or live alone.

Ji Jin-hee plays Geu-Ru’s father in ‘Move to Heaven’
Image courtesy of Netflix

“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all of us are going through such difficult times. So many of us are in pain. But, if we try to look around, to be better members of society and community, I think there’s so much we can do for each other. There are a lot of lonely people in society, a lot of solitary deaths happening. And I think we can all be better citizens, we can all be better neighbors, and members of a community when we are able to think a little bit about those issues. If we are able to look each other in the eye.”

He added, “I know that a lot of watching content these days have something to do with escapism, but I think it could be a better experience for us if we actually use it as an opportunity to look around our reality. Rather than to escape it.”

Production still courtesy of Netflix

His sentiments were echoed by the rest of the cast, emphasizing that they wish that viewers would recognize these stories as those of the people around them. To tackle disconnection and lack of communication, to acknowledge and appreciate the role of “trauma cleaners” in society, as well as to encourage people to show more interest in getting to know their neighbors—these are the main points of conversation that the cast hopes to share with the rest of the world.

Event photo courtesy of Netflix

Move to Heaven proves to be a distinct type of series that anyone could relate to, as it completely plunges into the depths of human emotion through discussions on life and death. From what the cast and director has been saying, this drama is certainly not going to be an easy, lighthearted drama to watch when you want to escape from life’s worries. It’s going to be one that hits you right in the feels, and forces you to confront heavy dialogues with yourself, and the world around you.

At its very core, though, it’s a drama that will hopefully teach all of us to be more empathetic of one another, and to be more appreciative of the relationships we have now. After all, we don’t know when it’ll be someone’s last chapter in their inevitable move to heaven.

All ten episodes of Move to Heaven are now streaming, only on Netflix.