Further quick fire reviews from the 14th Jeonju International Film Festival.
Breathe Me (울게 하소서) – ★★★★☆
Far too often, scandalous headlines of teen pregnancy and mothers abandoning their children in horrific ways fill Korean media. It’s therefore quite brave of director Han Eun-young (한은영) to produce a film about both issues in this 20 minute short, particularly as it is staged from the perspective of the teens themselves. The result is an incredibly engaging and compelling film, one that is so enthralling that it feels more like 5 minutes than the actual running time. As high school girl A-young has her baby in secret, director Han effectively uses the dim lighting and locations very well in constructing the loneliness and isolation of the situation, contrasted well with the panic and adrenaline-induced scenes of her boyfriend as he attempts to find her. Rather than provide excuses, director Han conveys how the fear of the situation leads the teens to make illogical choices that jeopardize them all. While more information about the central protagonists, and a longer running time, would have made Breathe Me a stronger short, the film is a powerful piece and one that is timely.
Dear Dolphin (환상속의 그대) – ★★★☆☆
Director Kang Ji-na’s (강진아) Dear Dolphin examines the grief, and the illogical sense of guilt, that follows the death of a loved one. Such weighty subject matter is given a sense of surrealism with the inclusion of water symbolism and hallucinations brought on by insomnia, as the narrative conveys how loving memories and emotions can become poison through the refusal of acceptance. For the most part director Kang succeeds in capturing the psychological devastation and the difficulty in moving on, yet the narrative structure is also responsible for lessening the poignancy of the message. As the story often jumps between time frames without much notice, as well as the stylistic changes and the picking up and dropping of subplots at whim, it becomes difficult to fully connect with the central protagonists and to feel their trauma. Perhaps this is intentional in order to keep the film ‘light’ despite the complex subject matter, but the result is one that distances audiences from the raw emotional power that the film attempts yet never fully manages to conceive. A thought-provoking film.