It’s a coming of age film that shows how hard it is to chase your dreams as a youngster. It’s a romantic comedy that shows how exciting your first love can be. It’s a drama that shows how competitive Higher Education can be. Most importantly, it’s a South Korean film that shows just how difficult it is to keep a band together. Because it is all these things, “Drawing Paper” never seems to come together to become any one thing.
Upon discovering her dreams of becoming a famous singer, Sang-Won (Kang Eun-Bi) decides to join her school’s all-girl band Magnolia. Joining her in this band is her best friend So Yi and a very secretive bassist named Soo-Ah. Through the course of the next few years together we see the band actually become a band. Through some interaction, that is unclear in the film, they end up working with an all boys band from a different school. Competition among the girls for the attention of the lead singer of the all boys band, as well as life outside of the band lead to the band going through several changes through the course of the film. The story of the band plays a lot like every band you’ve ever read about. Even at the High School level, it is really difficult to keep a band together.
What sets this movie apart is the role that Sang-Won’s education plays for her. She is attending a vocational school, and from a cultural standpoint it’s interesting to see that setup. All of her classes are based on workplace skill sets. Accounting, MS word, these are the types of classes she has to take. This is where the cultural differences are really showcased. Because Sang-Won dreams of becoming a professional singer someday, her best path to achieve this dream is to study music in college. Because she has gone to a vocational school her entire life, she is ill-prepared to take the entrance exams to get into college. This is a strong point in the film, and this is not at all how it would have played out in an American film.
For the most part, the film carries on how you would expect it to, but then it carries on well past where you think it’s going to end. The focal point was during the High School years, and the film goes on past high school. The story feels like it trails off and doesn’t know how to wrap itself up. This film had a lot of potential, but some of the narrative shortcomings disallowed it from ever reaching it.
There are some very good moments in this film. We get to see just how hard it is for these students who are growing up with these very specific school systems. The moments during band practice, where we see the band working out the little nuances of becoming a unit, are some of the most entertaining in the film. Because the bassist is so far advanced a musician than the rest of them, the band actually tells her to play down to their level. While there are great moments throughout, it’s just not a very complete film.
You probably won’t be able to see this film unless you seek it out, via festival or import DVD. If you do get a chance to see it, it is enjoyable at times and there was definitely enough there to make me wonder where this writer/director goes next.