Wonderfully charismatic and beautifully told, writer/director Yoon Ga-eun’s (유가은) short film Sprout (콩나물) is a lovely tale of childhood innocence and discovery. The film has proven to be a hit on the festival circuit, receiving the Crystal Bear for Best Short Film in Berlinale’s Generation Kplus competition in 2014, following a premiere in Busan a year earlier.
As a family gathers to prepare for an ancestral rites ceremony, the women in the family work hard to make enough food for all the members attending. Yet when the mother of the household realises she forgot to buy beansprouts, she becomes worried that the family – particularly the nit-picking uncle – will judge her for not preparing for the ceremony correctly. Taking it upon herself to fix the situation, youngster Bory (Kim Soo-an (김수안) collects her savings and sets out for market alone, encountering a world of new discoveries and experiences in her quest for the all-important beansprouts.
Sprout is a deceptively simple and delightful story, and one that is full of the kind of wonder only a child can experience. Director Yoon captures Bory’s tale and range of emotions masterfully as the youngster traverses the exciting-yet-scary landscape in her attempt to find beansprouts and end her mother’s suffering. In a sense the short film embodies the format of classic Greek myths with Bory as a young contemporary Ulysses on a crusade of her own, encountering challenges she must overcome to fulfill her expedition.
Moments when the tenacious youngster confronts obstacles in her path, meets strangers, and attempts to sneak past a frightening labrador contain a childlike epic sensibility and are constantly endearing and heartwarming, while Bory’s resourcefulness and determination never fail to inspire joy at witnessing her development.
Young actress Kim Soo-an is simply marvelous as Bory. It’s a tall order asking such a young child to carry an entire twenty minute film yet she does so with beguiling ease, performing an astonishing array of emotion during the short running time. As she encounters new experiences, confrontations and develops problem solving skills Kim Soo-an displays sincere curiosity and wonder throughout, conveying a charm beyond her years.
If criticism must be applied to Sprout, it is in the execution of the finale. After organically building Bory’s wonderful tale of exciting new experiences, director Yoon seems to be at a lose for how to end the story naturally. That is not to say the conclusion is bad as it still retains the charm embodied throughout the short film, yet it is an ending that would have benefited from an extra few minutes to conclude Bory’s story with more consistency.
Sprout is a lovely and endearing tale of youthful innocence. Writer/director Yoon Ga-eun has crafted a very charming and deceptively simple story of a girl on a quest through her neighbourhood for beansprouts, with the new experiences she encounters constantly heartwarming. Young actress Kim Soo-an is marvelous as Bory, displaying sincerity throughout the twenty minutes running time with performance beyond her years, carrying the film with aplomb. In short, Sprout is a lovely, beautifully told story of discovery.