Written and directed by Gyuri Byun, veteran fire officer Nabi accepts the coming out of her child Hankyeol, while flight crew member Vivian receives a coming out letter from her son Yejoon. The sons and mothers all work to confide in one another and evolve their relationships to fit their new reality.
With Coming to You, Gyuri Byun explores the coming out experience from the perspective of mothers, in the extremely traditional society of South Korea. That’s not to say it completely ignores the experiences of its young queer subjects, it balances the two well to give a view of the entire journey. It delves into the difficulties of explaining who you are, particularly for Hankyeol coming out as Trans, it can be a very complicated concept for parents to grasp. Especially when we’re talking about people who’ve grown up in such a strictly conventional society, Hankyeol and Yejoon are likely some of the few lucky ones to get a supportive, if hesitant, reaction.
Although it’s not trying to convince you that the mothers’ acceptance was perfectly smooth, it acknowledges that it took time. It also demonstrates that it’s an ongoing process, there will be new things to face and it can get bumpy. However, it highlights the key factor in all of it, their willingness to listen and not be judgemental, to adjust and understand as time goes on. It’s an aspect which is absolutely vital to the queer community, having those family members and friends who will support you makes all the difference. One of the ways it explores the journey to understanding is showing the support group which they all attend. It’s a wonderful choice on their part, having other people going through something similar helps to open up that understanding and ease the process. Seeing them embracing the queer community, being open even though they might not fully understand it and all of the different terms, is a wonderful thing.
It also explores the legal side of transitioning, it’s a lengthy process in countries that do allow it and it’s even harder in those that are still not quite evolved to an accepting view. Following Hankyeol’s experience of that is a perfect example of how it’s not something that is done lightly. It is a battle and not a pleasant one, it shows the commitment and work it takes for Trans people to be allowed to live authentically. All these elements of the story feed into the overall style from Gyuri Byun which is founded in honesty and kindness. There’s a compelling intimacy to Coming to You, it’s letting you into the homes of its subjects, making you one of the family to follow their journey. In that way it has a loving simplicity, the topics that it’s dealing with are complex but it views them with thoughtful, empathetic eyes.
Coming to You is a sweet, understanding and kind exploration of mother-son relationships and how they evolve. It’s unusual to have the focus be through the eyes of the mothers and not the sons who are coming out but it’s an interesting perspective to take, it allows you to see the experience from both sides. It acknowledges that even the most supportive mothers can have a bumpy road to acceptance when they’re coming from an ultra conventional society, but it’s the sheer amount of effort and support which they offer that makes all the difference. It’s an inspiration for other parents to embrace their queer children, watching how these two mothers whole-heartedly throw themselves into the community, prepared to listen, learn and love their children for who they are.