There have been a number of recent films that capture something of the terror and fluctuating emotions of being young with remarkable facility, and this is very much one of those. It uses tight close-ups on its child protagonist Sun (Choi Soo-in), as she stands waiting to be picked for a game of dodgeball. Everything is held in her eyes, and almost immediately, even before the end of that sequence (in which she is picked last), you know exactly who she is and where she fits into the school’s hierarchy. Sun is constantly trying to project cheerfulness and for a while, when she befriends a new student Ji-ah (Seol Hye-in), things look to be changing for her, and then schoolyard politics start to reassert themselves, the mean girls come by, and everything is levelled again. However, it’s never moralistic or sentimental, and it conveys with an economy of language what’s going on with Sun. She isn’t constantly broadcasting to the world (like say the protagonist of Eighth Grade) but that’s largely because her family is poor and can’t afford the technology or advantages the other kids have, and that clearly is feeding into her exclusion from the social cliques. And because it’s a Korean film, sharing food also becomes a meaningful exchange between characters, charting some of their emotional bonding (or otherwise) in subtle ways. This is a lovely, at times heartbreaking, film with an immensely good central performance and some lovely camerawork.
Director/Writer Yoon Ga-eun 윤가은; Cinematographers Min Jun-won 민준원 and Kim Ji-hyun 김지현; Starring Choi Soo-in 최수인, Seol Hye-in 설혜인; Length 94 minutes.
Seen at Korean Cultural Centre, London, Thursday 2 May 2019.