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Set in 1994 in Seoul, a touching coming-of-age drama centered around the quiet, unexceptional eighth-grader Eun-Hee (Ji-hu Park). Struggling to make passing grades and subject to non-stop screaming at home, she spends her time finding meaning in the love and friendships of her peers, in shoplifting, and in karaoke bars. It's in her cram school professor Yong-Ji (Sae-byeok Kim), however, that Eun-Hee finds the answers that she seeks, as the two form an unlikely friendship.Written by
"Among all the people you know, how many really understand what's going on inside you?"
House of Hummingbird is a bleak but beautifully told story of a girl drowning in childhood neglect who learns how to live by and for herself as she is confronted with the true transience and fragility of the bridges that connect us with others. Set in 1994 Seoul, the film is a semi-autobiographical coming-of-age of both the director and her country.
The few melodramatic steps taken by the script are counterbalanced by how it avoids being overly cinematic; you forget you are watching a film. It's this distinction that spares it from a comparison to Eighth Grade. Where Bo Burnham crafted an expressive, modern, and quintessentially teenage coming-of-age, Bora Kim gives us a muted and nuanced story of an ageless soul coming to terms with a lonely existence. The nature of Eunhee's relationships with her Chinese teacher and one of her classmates bears a closer resemblance to Lost in Translation. While the themes of how we define family and fending for ourselves are both reminiscent of the 2018 Cannes darling Shoplifters.
At karaoke, Eunhee sings into the mic:
🎶 "Love is like glass. It shines so beautifully but breaks so easily. And how difficult it is now as I deal with the pieces..." 🎶
The sad notes of the film are hard-hitting, but like her teacher says when Eunhee asks about the residents protesting relocation, "Don't pity them. We don't really know their lives." And so are we reminded as such regarding the central character.
The film is framed from her perspective, letting us into this world only so far as Eunhee understands it. Free of stereotypes and cliches, the film takes us so far into the mental seclusion of adolescence, right to the home of internal angst--to the point where we are offended on behalf of Eunhee when someone says to her, "You only think about yourself..." It's only then we surface from the depths of her perspective.
House of Hummingbird is a true gem of a film. With the exception of an amateurish plot point written into the end, the film is perfect. Biggest surprise of the festival so far. .
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