HAPPY CLEANERS – A Review by John Strange

HAPPY CLEANERS – A Review by John Strange

Dramas about regular families are rarely watch-worthy.  Happy Cleaners from directors Julian Kim and Peter S. Lee gives us a Korean family, owners of a neighborhood dry cleaners in Flushing, Queens NY, that breaks through to our hearts. 

Their shop is run by Mom (Hyang-hwa Lim) and Dad (Charles Ryu).  Both kids live at home.  Their daughter Hyunny (Yeena Sung) is a nurse and contributes part of her pay to help support the family’s debts.  Their son Kevin (Yun Jeong) is the black sheep who quits college (Mom wants him to be a doctor) to follow his desire to be a chef/own his very own food truck in L.A.

The dry cleaner shop is at the heart of their world until, suddenly, it’s not.  The family must find a new anchor in the absence of their rock.

Happy Cleaners is a film that takes a look at the lives of both immigrants (the parents and grandparents) and their American-born children.  Each group looks at the world differently and react to stimuli accordingly. 

The way the parents treat the problems they face says a lot not just about them but the way they have been forced to face the world they live in.  Their children, raised in this country, didn’t always agree with the reasons or the outcomes of those decisions.

This family takes the blows and gets through the rough times while working through their issues.  And in the end, the film gives us an ending that shows that love and family are not just words. 

One small bit, after the son has moved out due to the stress in the household, made me feel like the filmmakers got it right.  My dad did the same type of spiel when he missed me.  “Your Mom seems to miss you.  Call her from time to time since she worries.”  My own Dad said something similar.  More than once.  Neither of us was fooled as to who missed me.  That’s love, Father-style.

I started watching this film leery of the story as it unfolded but the writing and performances drew me in.  This is a strong 4.5-star film in my eyes.


Directors: Julian Kim, Peter S. Lee

Cast: Yeena Sung, Yun Jeong, Donald Chang, Charles Ryu, Dax Richardson, Jaeki Cho, Lena Enck, Jaehee Wilder, Jamie Jungah Kim, Hyang-hwa Lim

MPAA Rating: NR

Selig Rating: 4.5 Stars

Runtime: 98 Min.

Movie Site: http://koreanamericanstory.org/happy-cleaners/

Trailer: HAPPY CLEANERS Trailer

Release Dates:

  • In Theaters – Feb 5-11, 2021
  • On-Demand – Feb 12, 2021


The Selig Rating Scale:

5 Stars – Excellent movie, well worth the price.

4 Stars – Good movie

3 Stars – OK movie

2 Stars – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.

1 Star – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn’t paid for it.

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