Colour Rush Review: An overwhelming wave of emotions

Set in an alt-Korea where there is widespread prevalence of a neurological form of Monochromacy, Colour Rush is an original and compelling BL about finding someone who makes your world brighter.

In the first episode of Colour Rush, we learn about Monos who live their lives in a monochromatic world of varying shades of grey. Unlike monochromats in the real world, the eyes of Monos function perfectly but their brains cannot process colour. They’re aware that the rest of the world is different but unable to do anything about it. It is simply the way they’re born.

But there is a circumstance in which Monos can see colour. Each Mono has a ‘Probe’; a person somewhere out in the world who can make them see colour. When the Mono finds their Probe, they experience Colour Rush: an in-rush of sensory information so intense it can even cause them to pass out. While a mono can experience colour for a time, they eventually go through Decolouration and their world returns once again to nondescript and unremarkable.

How and why looking at the face of your Probe enables your brain to process colour temporarily is not explained, nor is it the point really. Monos dwell in a grey and shapeless world until their Probe brings it to life for them. It may not stand up to much scrutiny as science, but as a metaphor for an in-rush of emotion, it’s amazingly apropos. Overwhelming, intense and an experience that opens your eyes to a new world. Colour Rush is about experiencing love for the first time. And like being a Mono itself, it’s not something you have any control over.

Choi Yeon-woo (Yoo Jun) is a Mono who never wants to find his Probe. The television news is filled with scary reports of Monos going crazy and kidnapping or murdering their Probes due to their intense desire to possess them. Yeon-woo has no interest in becoming that kind of crazy. He’s happy to dwell in darkness if seeing the light makes him a statistic. But when Yeon-woo meets his probe, Go Yoo-han (Heo Hyun-jun), he finds himself unable to stop himself from craving what Yoo-han is selling. And ‘selling’ is the closest word I can find to what Yoo-han seems to be doing for the first few episodes. He comes across almost as a drug dealer, giving Yeon-woo a taste of his product to get him hooked and then manipulating him into a more intimate relationship.

It’s admittedly sensual and intense – or at least as sensual and intense as two moderately-uncomfortable teens can be in a narrative tradition known for its stylistic and often antiseptic portrayals of romance. And it’s a pretty good metaphor for the confused and intense emergence of adolescent sexuality. But that doesn’t mean that Yoo-han doesn’t come across as a pusher who is slowly and deliberately building up to asking for sexual favours in exchange for a hit. It’s a little uncomfortable but also perfectly encompasses the feeling of being vulnerable, both to another person and to your emotions.

Before Yeon-woo knows it, and despite his best intentions, he’s completely hooked on Yoo-han, although how Yoo-han feels and why he’s so aggressive about being Yeon-woo’s Probe is not immediately clear. And yes, that feeling of being out of control and completely at the mercy of another person is possibly also a great metaphor for first love. Yeon-woo is as unsure of Yoo-han’s motives as we are but also keenly aware of just how destructive his own obsession can be. After all, Monos in this universe are consistently portrayed as being unstable, obsessive and dangerous. It’s a self-loathing that Yeon-woo has internalised and that drives much of his reaction to finding his Probe.

In Colour Rush, Korea has produced a pretty deft portrayal of a first love so intense that it feels almost illicit. The two boys creep around as though they’re doing something wrong, a sense not helped by Yeon-woo’s Aunt who’s scared of losing her nephew like she did her sister. Yeon-woo’s mother – also a Mono – disappeared four years ago. His Aunt is trying to find her and keeps Yeon-woo on the move so he doesn’t risk the emotional attachment that might lead him to do something crazy. In a way, though, his Aunt’s determination to keep him safe and at home with her, combined with the prevailing social perception of Monos, is the reason that Yeon-woo is so scared of his own emotions and his relationship with his Probe. It’s a fear that eventually leads him to do something drastic.

I wasn’t sure how I felt about Colour Rush as I was watching it. The camera work and direction feels surreal and disjointed, lingering almost fetishistically on the faces of our two boys. The soundtrack is minimalist in a way that works perfectly but doesn’t mean the soundtrack stands out. Unfortunately Yoo-han’s idol actor, Heo Hyun-jun (while admittedly playing an idol) is wooden and stiff and his make-up at various points is out of control. An Idol playing an Idol is not exactly inspired casting and the role would have been better served by a more accomplished actor comfortable with the skinship.

However, despite its shortcomings, Colour Rush creates the perfect sense of a bubble world inhabited by two people whose feelings for each other are bordering on obsession, an addiction even. In that respect, it’s the sexless and more intelligent version of Addicted/Heroin and one that shows that these feelings don’t have to be a destructive force. The bubble the two boys live in comes more from implicit bias in how Monos and Probes are portrayed in society and from the way in which their families treat them than from the reality of their relationship. And there’s no greater metaphor than that for being gay in a world that wants to paint you as unstable and in need of psychiatric help because of it.

The show is frequently breathtakingly beautiful and celebrates colour in all its vibrant, messy glory. Both actors deliver long monologues about the breadth and depth of the colours around them, even the shades of grey that Yeon-woo has lived with all his life. In many ways, Colour Rush celebrates the way in which a relationship brings two people together to a shared view of the world and their place in it.

So I guess in the end I have to conclude that I kind of love Colour Rush. Aside from constructing a perfect and fascinating metaphor both for homosexuality and for first love, some of the dialogue is particularly beautiful. One scene where Yoo-han helps Yeon-woo to ‘see’ a portrait of his mother for the first time is profoundly moving and even heart breaking.

It shows once again that Korean writers treat BL far more seriously than either Thailand or Taiwan and if they keep at it they’ll rival even the Phillipines. But first they’ll have to get the funding to create longer form stories that will allow them to expand on their ideas.

In particular, Colour Rush needed a more fleshed out world that went into greater detail about how Monos and Probes are perceived and the way in which it intersects with homosexuality. The show also needed time for the mother mystery to go somewhere, especially since the show hints that more Monos than her have disappeared. It’s a mystery component that’s raised and then mostly ignored except as an impetus to his Aunt’s fears about him being “just like his mother”. It’s possible the show is angling for a season 2 and if they somehow manage to balance the mystery elements with the romance then I’ll definitely be tuning in for it.

Compelling and sometimes surreally beautiful, Colour Rush is my favourite Korean BL so far, although as a nascent genre it doesn’t have a great deal of competition.

Colour Rush has no mainstream distribution channels in Australia but is available to view on youTube.


4 thoughts on “Colour Rush Review: An overwhelming wave of emotions

  1. This just might be the show I’ll be checking out soon.
    And That’d be thanks to you, for giving your perspective.

    It’s almost unfair how many great/good/moderately-decent shows get no eyes on them because of mainstream and overtly romance oriented drama.
    Not that romance is a failed genre, but is definitely saturated with less variety in itself.

    And It definitely doesn’t help when the major chunk of the audience keep gushing over those shows.

    Finding even slight outliers like this one is a huge welcome. So thanks!

    I hope I’ll like it!
    Cheers.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I thought this show was entertaining, but for me for some reason it simply didn’t “get there”.
    The premise and lore of the monos and probes was very interesting and an intelligent metaphor and I know that with such short length of the series it wouldn’t be possible to explore this in more depth or get to know the characters better (I never felt that I knew them or connected with them, except maybe for the mono sometimes) so I think they did the best they could with the short amount of time they could.

    However, I felt that though the intention and premise were there and were exciting, the execution was just “meh” for me. Yes the disjointed camera work that you said and editing were a bit subpair for me, but I could overlook that if the acting was good and there was chemistry between the actors. The mono’s acting was good, but the probe was so stiff as you said (and I’ve noticed this in a few of the other recent Korean bl except for WYEL) and though yes, the probe was also obsessed with the mono and we even get an explanation for it, it was simply not conveyed there there was attraction between them and chemistry, but maybe due to those “idol actor” restrictions. It can’t be too gay. I didn’t like the kiss (probably also due to the idol restrictions), but then since it’s first love and highschool boys, the awkwardness could be kind of excused by that. And when I say “lack of chemistry” or “not believing their love and attraction” I don’t mean that I need physical scenes for that… it’s just some details, body language and acting that is hard to achieve in rushed productions like this with rookie actors that weren’t trained and directed to convey love and attraction to their acting and not just by simply saying it verbally.

    I was a bit disappointed. But I wish someone would pick up this story, turn it into a full length drama and pick actual actors (not idols with all those restrictions) who are more expressive, charismatic and can convey all the emotions and have the lovers have more chemistry (maybe invest more in workshops to build up the comfort and chemistry). If this happened, with this premise and developing this story more, it would be brilliant!

    TLDR: it was fine, but the stiff acting (mainly the probe) and lack of chemistry of the leads didn’t do it for me

    Like

    1. Oh wow, thanks for such a great comment! I agree, although I kind of ended up loving it anyway despite its flaws. But I too would like to see the version with stronger actors who are comfortable with a gay role.

      Like

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