Director – Kim Jin-yu – 2017 – South Korea – Cert. – 109m
Pre-teenager Bori feels alienated from her little brother, mum and dad because she’s the only one who isn’t deaf – available to watch from 10am-11pm on Thursday November 12th as the Online Closing Gala of the London Korean Film Festival (LKFF).
Pre-teenager Bori (Kim Ah-song) lives by the sea with her close and loving family – a dad who often works nights on ships, a devoted mum, a little brother Jeungwoo (Lee Rin-ha) who’s brilliant offensive futsal player. Her best friend Eun-jeong (Hwang Yoo-rim) is the daughter of the delivery man at the local takeaway restaurant, whose very reasonably priced black bean noodle dishes the family avail themselves of often. Bori’s dad, mum and little brother are all deaf, so at home they communicate in sign language.
The family go to a firework display where Bori slips away from the edges of a crowded tent where she can’t really see anything and goes to talk to an immigrant stallholder about his jewellery. But then she can’t find the family and after wandering around, hands herself in at the local police station where her family later find her.
Feeling the odd one out, she later tries to damage her hearing by jumping into the sea. It doesn’t work, but she pretends it has and the family become terribly worried abut her. This helps her to bond with them once more and she is reassured.
This is a great idea for a film, but unusually for a Korean film screened in this festival, it’s over stretched with too long a running length. It starts off well with a light and breezy sequence of Bori going to school, stopping to pray at a shrine and meeting up with her best friend shortly after, a sequence of events rerun several times (and why should it not be?)
Along with the opening shot where she appears to be walking along the top of a wall kept out of sight below picture frame bottom edge, this recurring motif recalls such Hayao Miyazaki career highs as My Neighbour Totoro / Tonari no Totoro (1988) and Kiki’s Delivery Service / Majo no takkyubin (1989). Alas the rest of the film doesn’t keep up to this level, often getting bogged down in slow-paced drama. And unlike Joe Hisaishi’s unforgettable scores for Miyazaki, the music here is both twee and repetitive.
It’s a bit like a Hirokazu Kore-eda family drama (e.g. Shoplifters / Manbiki kazoku, 2018 or A Day-Off Of Kasumi Arimura / Arimura Kasumi No Satsukyu, 2020) without the magic. Only in the final reel does it really pick up when Bori, feigning deafness, overhears two prejudiced clothing store workers hike the price of a dress mum’s buying because she’s a deaf mute, unaware Bori can hear every conniving word. More of this sort of thing could have improved the film no end. Then there’s a terrific amateur football final where Jeungwoo, having been recently reinstated to the school team, is bought on as a substitute in the second half to up the team’s performance, watched on the telly by enthusiastic family and friends. The trouble is, by then it’s a bit too late in the narrative.
Bori is available to watch from 10am-11pm on Thursday November 12th as the Online Closing Gala in the London Korean Film Festival (LKFF).
LKFF 2020 trailer: