“A Boy and Sungreen” had its world premiere in Busan in 2018, as part of the Korean Cinema Today – Vision Section. It will be shown in London at the Korean Film Festival. It is Ahn Ju-Young first feature (after directing four different short films).
Bo-Hee and Nok-Yang are 14 years old. They were born in the same hospital, on the same day. They are best friends and spend their time together. Both are entering teenage years, with the transition and questions that go with it. Nok-Yang likes to shoot videos with her phone and is more of an extrovert. Bo-Hee likes to draw and is more of an introvert. She grew-up without her mom, he grew up without his dad. The young man’s father supposedly passed away in an accident. Except he didn’t. When Bo-Hee finds out, the duo goes on a quest to find the missing (but very well alive) parent. They meet various characters along the way.
The quest doesn’t turn up to be a police-investigation chase (although we are caught up in the clues and wanting to find out more). It is more a window to the journey towards adulthood; and a good means to question what it takes to have a sense of belonging and unconditional love, but also how to build his/her gender identity. Here, the questioning focuses more specifically on the idea and development of “masculinity” without a father-figure through the eyes of Bo-Hee.
The ending is consistent with the masculinity question. However, it also almost ‘justifies’ the father’s desertion. This gives closure to the main character and reinforces Bo-Hee’s idea that he is not guilty for his dad leaving. But that explanation and reinforcement weren’t needed. Most children don’t have a rational reason behind their parent leaving, yet it is not their fault and nothing really makes the abandonment more acceptable.
Other than this small glitch (which really isn’t one but would have added to the movie if different), the film is very interesting, entertaining and the script is well-built. The pace finds a perfect tempo, it has humor (a rare fact for a first feature that is not labelled as a ‘pure comedy’), the young actors’ (Ahn Ji-Ho and Kim Ju-A) acting is believable.
“A Boy and Sungreen” is a success; even more knowing that it is a first feature. It leaves you in thinking, but also in a good place.