Lee Ho-Jae’s Sori: Voice From the Heart screening on Fantasia International Film Festival

Kind of a peculiar mixture, “Sori” combines sci-fi, drama, action, comedy and even a war among the secret services of S. Korea and the US, in order to present messages regarding grief, guilt, acceptance and the relationships between parents and their children.

Kim Hae-gwan has lost his daughter during a fire in the train station ten years ago, although her body was never found. This fact has not permitted him to let go, as he is still searching for her, despite his wife’s efforts to convince him to accept the truth. |His search leads him to a remote island, where he discovers a kind of a robot in a beach at night, which seems to functional. As he discovers that the robot, which he eventually names Sori, may have the ability to help him find his daughter, he also becomes the target of the US secret service, who is looking for it, and the Korean one, who is supposedly helping them in their search. As he learns more about his daughter, he realizes how little he actually knew about her. Dr Ji-yeon, a scientist of the Korean Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) seems to be on to him.

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Lee Ho- Jae penned (with Lee So–young) and directed a film that does a very good job of portraying the aforementioned social messages, particularly through Hae-gwan’s character, whose conception and analysis is one of the film’s greatest assets. Apart from that though, the script is rather hyperbolic, in an effort to combine all these different themes and notions, to the point of being naive and disconnected. This applies to the concept of the robot, which is entertaining up to a point, but then becomes exaggerated, since Sori acts like a girl and even has its own agenda. Furthermore, the “war” between the secret services also moves towards exaggeration, and the action part looks rather out of place. Lee wanted to include many different components in order to make the film stand out, but he obviously lost his sense of proportion, eventually.

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The film is centered on Lee Sung-minas Kim Hae-gwan, and he does a wonderful job of portraying a kind of bully, who will stop at nothing to find his daughter. The moment of truth that shutters him is probably his performance’s greatest asset. The other actors have minor roles, with Lee Ha-nui as Dr Ji-yeon standing apart,  particularly for her looks, though, rather than her acting. The American actors are, once more in an Asian production, disappointing, to say the least.

Technically the film is quite good, with the technicians doing a nice job on the R2D2-like robot. Joo Sung-rim’s cinematography presents a number of splendid images, and Nam Na-young’s editing helps the most in the action scenes and in the various flashbacks, which are easily understandable.

“Sori:Voice From the Heart” is a film worth seeing despite its flaws, which would benefit though, if its creator was more sure of what he wanted to present.

The film is part of the excellent Asian selection of Fantasia International Film Festival that will be on in Montreal until August 3.