Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
NYICFF ’17: The World of Us
might be a cliché, but it could very well be true bullying is more emotionally
intense among girls, compared to boys. It is probably even more so in more
socially rigid South Korea. Regrettably, that is the situation eleven-year-old
Seon faces. She is a sweet kid, so it is often rough watching her in Yoon
Ga-eun’s The World of Us (trailer here), which screens
during the 2017 New York International Children’s Film Festival.
is not popular and it seems like social class is the primary reason why. A few
years ago, she was good friends with mean girl queen bee Bo-ra, but now she is
treated like an outcast. However, due to fortuitous timing, Seon meets a new
classmate just as summer vacation starts, forging a fast friendship with the
well-heeled Ji-ah. They argue and make-up as girls of that age do, but they
share a legit friendship, until catty Bo-ra gets a hold of Ji-ah during cram
school (which Seon’s parents can’t afford).
Seon finds herself alone again, but Ji-ah’s rejection makes it sting even
worse. However, Ji-ah’s new position in the popular clique may not be as secure
as she assumes. A kernel of their old friendship might still persist between Seon
and Ji-ah, but they only seem to lash-out at each other, out of frustration
with peer pressure and their own dysfunctional family lives.
have to give Yoon credit, because she never waters-down or sugar-coats any of the
pain and humiliation Seon experiences. Young Choi Soo-in is also so remarkably
expressive, she makes us feel every slight deeply and profoundly. She is just a
natural, who will rip your heart out and stomp on it. Likewise, Seol Hye-in
gives a completely grounded, utterly unaffected performance as Ji-ah, who is
arguably an even more complex character.
most bullying dramas, Yoon establishes the complex social dynamics that
ultimately foster the emotional bullying Seon (and to some extent Ji-ah)
endures, including parental alcoholism, divorce, and the lingering emotional
baggage from their parents’ childhoods. This is not a reductive story of rich
vs poor and jocks vs geeks, even that is essentially what it boils down to on a
day-to-day level for Seon.
This is an excellent film, but probably one you
will never want to revisit through repeat viewings. However, watching the
careers of Choi and Seol blossom (as they surely shall) will be all the more
rewarding for those who have seen their debuts under Yoon’s sensitive direction.
It is a bold, challenging selection for NYICFF, but it is definitely a film
that should develop empathy among viewers (young and old alike). Highly
recommended for those who think they can take it, The World of Us screens again this Sunday (3/12), as part of the
New York International Children’s Film Festival.
Labels: Korean Cinema, NYICFF '17