Director – Yoon Dan-bi – 2019 – South Korea – Cert. 15 – 105m
It’s the Summer, so dad (Yang Heung-joo) takes his two kids, teenage daughter Okju (Choi Jun-un) and smaller son Dongju (Park Seung-jun) off to stay with Grandpa (Kim Sang-dong). Moving location is no problem work-wise since he makes a living selling tennis shoes out of his small van on the street. It’s a precarious existence – at one point, he asks a man who runs a fabric shop whether he makes good money in that trade. And when Okju tries to sell some herself, she comes up against a buyer who has realised that the shoes are knock-offs.
There’s quite a bit of sibling rivalry – immediately on moving in, Okju refguses to let Dongju sleep in the room she has nabbed for herself after setting up her mosquito net. But as their aunt Mijung (Park Hyun-young) is later heard to remark, although the pair argue they actually get on with each other quite well.
This is essentially a deftly-handled, intimate family drama with its focus largely on the two kids although it has space to explore their parents’ generation a little too. Mijung is in the throes of a divorce from a marriage that hasn’t worked out well. Okju meanwhile harbours considerable resentment against her own mother who left the family, telling Dongju off for going shopping with her and allowing his mum to buy himself and his sister presents, which Okju understandably regards as a form of bribery.
The story is more Okju’s than any other character’s, following her activities not only around the house but also outside on a bicycle and with a boy she meets regularly on the local park bench. Choi Jun-un does a good job at portraying a pretty typical teenager who throws a wobbly when told by her cash-strapped dad that she can’t have cosmetic surgery to change the shape of her eye sockets.
We never really get the chance to find out much about grandpa, which is a pity. Otherwise, though, in terms of showing us the world largely through the eyes of children, this is spot on. If it moves at quite a slow pace, it’s one that makes you want to stick with it. By the end, you’ll be glad you did.
London Korean Film Festival (LKFF), Special Focus: Friends and Family strand, online from 2pm Monday, November 2nd to 2pm Wednesday, November 4th
LKFF 2020 trailer: