Director: YUN In-ho
Starring: KIM Suk, LEE See-young, KIM Myung-jae,
Released By: Cathay-Keris Films (Exclusively
at Cathay Orchard Cineplex)
Opening Day: 15 September 2005
Yeo-min is a matured and thoughtful 9 year old boy who lives
in a small mountain village. Even at his young age, he has
too many things to take care of. First, he has to protect
his friends from the neighborhood bully Black Bird and keep
peace in his neighborhood. Second, he must share his lunch
with his best friend Ki-jong who lives alone with his sister.
And, third, he has to sell ice cream bars after school to
save enough money to buy a pair of sunglasses for his mother
who injured her eye while working at a factory. He is a good
son to his parents and a loyal friend to his buddies. He does
well in spelling tests and has completely memorized the multiplication
table. He is a nine year old boy who thinks he knows everything
he needs to know about the world he lives in. Until...
A movie starring children as its protagonists is more often
than not, a crowd-pleaser. Remember the hilarious The School
of Rock (2003) from Hollywood and the charming Millions (2004)
from UK? In Asia, we have nostalgic My Girl (2003) from Thailand
and the heartbreaking Nobody Knows (2004) from Japan. So when
a coming-of-age Korean movie like this comes along, you know
things will not go too wrong.
most movies about kids, this one has an uncomplicated plot.
Set in a small village during the 70s, it tells the story
of nine-year-old Yeo-min (played by the endearing Kim Seok),
who studies at an elementary school there. Although he is
only a young boy, he has to deal with many adult issues. There
is the school bully he needs to protect his friends from.
There are the jobs after school so that he can earn enough
money to buy a pair of sunglasses for his one-eyed mother.
Then there is the new haughty girl in class whom he takes
a fancy for. The burden a nine-year-old has to take before
growing up, you say.
on a 1991 bestselling novel, the movie version was released
in Korea last year. There are no roller coaster ups and downs
in this movie. Everything moves along steadily, which is why
this small movie may not be your cup of tea if you are looking
for an exciting night out in the cinema.
Kim may not be the most adorable boy at first glance, he carries
his role of the tough young kid very well. At the end of the
movie, you realize how this boy matures in character. His
love interest is played by 14-year-old Lee Se-young, who can
also be seen in the wildly popular Korean drama series A Jewel
in the Palace. She plays her spoilt character with vulnerability,
and you do not know whether to loathe or pity her.
the kid who truly steals the show is Na Ah-hyeon, brilliantly
cast as Yeo-min’s good friend who becomes jealous when
he falls in love with the new girl. Na’s strangely amusing
bob hair and cute pout make her a joy to watch.
a pity it is then, that the lovable cast of kids is not enough
to save the glaring lack of focus of this movie. As the 105
minutes plod along, there seems to be odd insertions of unnecessary
characters and storylines. There is a strange man who spouts
philosophical lines. There is an alcoholic who abuses his
wife whenever he is drunk. There is a piano teacher who, well,
just sits there and plays the piano. These characters neither
add colour nor depth to the story. Without these distractions,
more emphasis could have been given to Yeo-min’s rather
touch-and-go relationships with his teacher, friends and family.
This drawback is otherwise salvaged by the movie’s simple
cinematography art direction. Simple and elegant, the overall
feel of the movie does not boast of fancy and attention-grabbing
techniques like Hollywood blockbusters. Korea’s scenic
countryside is also beautifully captured as the backdrop of
this film. Which nine-year-old in Singapore has experienced
this calm and serene feeling, given the concrete primary schools
they go to?
and without pretence, the movie is still enough to capture
your heart with its innocence and heartfelt emotions. The
themes dealt are nothing new or innovative, but they are also
something we can relate to universally. After all, half the
battle is already won the moment the filmmakers decide to
make this movie about kids.
entry to the list of crowd-pleasing movie about kids)
by John Li