Year:  2019

Director:  Ahn Ju-young

Rated:  15+

Release:  October 31, 2020

Running time: 99 minutes

Worth: $16.00
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Ahn Ji-ho, Kim Joo-ah, Seo Hyun-woo

…incredibly moving…

Ever since the ‘90s brought post-modern self-awareness into the mainstream, cinema both within that mainstream and in the independent scene has grown an undercurrent of reflectiveness. Characters in movies talk about characters in other movies, openly point out when events in their ‘life’ resemble those in fiction, and on the production side of things, using that awareness of tropes and storytelling conventions to veer towards something more ‘real’. It’s the kind of material that people either love or hate.

A Boy And Sungreen, the debut of writer/director Ahn Ju-young, represents a subtler version of the metatext. There are no lengthy scenes of film discussion and it doesn’t carry a chip on its shoulder about movie cliches, but a film buff, whose teary-eyed reaction to sitting in a cinema (an image that carries a certain depressed nostalgia nowadays) opens the film, and is at the core of this incredibly moving feature.

Middle school student Bo-hee (Ahn Ji-ho) discovers that the father his mother kept insisting had died might actually still be alive. Framing the narrative is cinema, which has been part of his upbringing – flashbacks are signalled by the flickering sound of a projector while his best friend Nok-yang (Kim Joo-ah) films him for a documentary. It has a similar aesthetic to Me And Earl And The Dying Girl, where the protagonists are both film buffs and amateur home-movie makers, which informs the visual techniques in the film and add endearing textures to their relationship.

Indeed, it is the examination of relationships that is the meat on the story’s skeleton, as the script explores various examples of what makes people connect with others, what makes that connection stay strong over the years, and even what can cause those involved to drift away from each other. Anchored by the framing of real life as cinematic narrative-in-waiting, the way the performances and dialogue portray those relationships and how much these people mean to one another makes for an experience loaded with feels. Even when those connections enter into potentially worrying territory (as warming as it is to see Bo-hee bonding with his surrogate big brother Seong-wook (Seo Hyun-woo), that bed scene is still a bit icky), the film’s tone always endures.

A Boy And Sungreen combines a wealth of understanding about human relationships with a flattering integration of the filmgoer as part of the larger story, in order to craft a sweet and comforting movie that shows independent cinema, regardless of geography, doing what it does best: making the everyday feel wondrous.


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