The girls become close friends through song, dance and school life

Sunny (써니) (2011) – ★★★★☆

Sunny (써니)

Sunny (써니)

Sunny (써니) is labelled as a ‘coming of age’ film, which is slightly misleading; in actual fact, it’s a ‘coming of ages’ film, and one of the best examples of the subgenre.

Na-mi (Yoo Ho-jeong (유호정) is a 40-something housewife whose identity has become lost in the daily routines of domesticity. Her husband generally ignores her and shows no affection; her daughter is spoiled and doesn’t communicate. Na-mi’s life revolves around performing chores and familial duties within the sexist patriarchal framework to which she has become accustomed. What sounds like the basis for an intense drama is comedically interrogated by writer/director Kang Hyeong-cheol (강형철), who incessantly ridicules such archaic sensibilities in both overt and subtle ways.

As both her husband and daughter refuse to acknowledge their sick mother-in-law/grandmother, Na-mi visits the hospital alone. There the comedy begins, as the intricacies of relationships are picked apart. Na-mi’s husband receives all the credit for her hard work; star-crossed lovers on a TV drama are revealed as siblings; and Na-mi’s mother reminds her daughter that she was very difficult to raise.

Walking through the ward, Na-mi accidently meets old school friend Choon-hwa (Jin Hee-kyeong (진희경), who now suffers with cancer. As the two catch-up on old times, a plot is hatched – to reunite their group of friends before Choon-hwa’s time is up. Sunny then becomes a film of two stories; Na-mi as a child and the difficulties of starting school and making new friends, and adult Na-mi as she reunifies her friends after years of separation. Director Kang Hyeong-cheol (강형철) expertly handles each narrative and interlinks them so well that the film flows with ease. Just as young Na-mi meets friends and discovers her identity, so too does her adult counterpart whose identity must be rediscovered. This leads to some incredibly funny and touching moments, such as when young Na-mi’s lateness is contrasted with her adult-self constantly chastises her daughter for the same thing. Also young Na-mi complains she doesn’t have ‘cool’ clothes like her friends, while in adulthood she tries on her daughter’s school uniform only to be caught red-handed.

Na-mi must find her old friends, and in the process rediscover herself

Na-mi must find her old friends, and in the process rediscover herself

The journey of meeting new friends is joyous to see unfold. Young Jang-mi (Go Soo-hee (고수희) is a large girl desperate for surgery and loves fake eyelashes; young Jin-hee (Hong Jin-hee (홍진희) has the filthiest mouth in town; young Geum-ok (Nam Bo-ra (남보라) has dreams of becoming an author; young Bok-hee (Kim Bo-mi-I (김보미) plans to be the next Miss Korea; pretty Su-ji (Min Hyo-rin (민효린) is quiet and intense; and leader young Choon-hwa (Kang So-ra (강소라) is the powerful authority figure. The trials and tribulations that bring these characters together and bind them is a nostalgic love letter to the teenage years and to the 1960s. A political context is also comedically interrogated, as the group of girls (now called ‘Sunny’) face off against a rival group, as too do protestors and government forces in the same area. While the girls slap and pull hair, the moves are mirrored in the violent protest and pokes fun at power struggles at all levels. It’s also the music and dance of the era that brings the girls together, providing a great soundtrack to the coming-of-adolescent-age segment.

The girls become close friends through song, dance and school life

The girls become close friends through song, dance and school life

However, rediscovering Na-mi’s friends is equally as humorous and poignant. For some, life has been kind; for others, radically different from the plans they had as youths. For them all life is not what they had hoped for and their personalities changed accordingly, yet as they are gradually reunited they inspire each other to remember the hopes and dreams they once had. If that sounds sentimental, then that’s because it is as Sunny combines comedy and melodrama to great effect. The poignancy of rediscovering an old friend whose tumultuous life has resulted in hardship is intertwined with tongue-in-cheek humour that helps the protagonists to initiate change, and to remember the importance of friendship.

The women reunite and rediscover themselves

The women reunite and rediscover themselves

Verdict:

Sunny is certainly a ‘feel-good’ film that does a wonderful job of employing the nostalgia of the ’60s to help the characters grow in the present. It is also incredibly refreshing to see a film that portrays women so vibrantly. The tendency of portraying women as purely love interests or kick-ass chicks is completely jettisoned, allowing the actresses to simply be women in the contemporary world, which they clearly relish. In fact, there are very few male roles in the film and those that are are a far cry from the ideal man. This again helps to bolster the woman as they are not restricted by archaic notions of housewife/mother stereotypes, and can fully express themselves to the point that by the end of the film, they have all recaptured their true personalities. As Sunny is such a fun and sentimental film it cannot be as critical and insightful as other dramatic examples, such as Girl, Interrupted (1999), are. But then, Sunny doesn’t need to be as it’s such a funny, moving, uplifting and charming film in its own right.

★★★★☆

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Upcoming London Korean Film Festival to showcase latest blockbusters

The London Korean Film Festival is due to commence November 3rd

The London Korean Film Festival (LKFF) 2011 will host the European premieres of several of this years Korean blockbusters.

Running from November 3rd-17th, LKFF will open with action/adventure film War of the Arrows (최종병기 활) (aka Arrow: The Ultimate Weapon), which stayed at the top of the Korean box office chart for several weeks and has currently grossed over 55,135 million Won. According to Hangul Celluloid, preceding the premiere will be a K-pop concert beginning at 4.30pm.

In addition, sleeper-hit Sunny (써니) which took the prize for Best Director at The Daejong Film Awards, and The Front Line (고지전), winner of Best Picture and official entry to The Academy Awards, will premiere at the event. Furthermore, gritty urban thriller The Yellow Sea (황해), period-comedy Detective K: Secret of the Virtuous Woman (조선명탐정: 각시투구꽃의 비밀), Kim Ki Duk’s critically acclaimed Poongsan (풍산개), and animated tale Leafie: A Hen Into The Wild (마당을 나온 암탉) will all be showcased.

Here’s a trailer showcasing the upcoming screenings of the festival.

LKFF will also be holding a 1 minute short mobile phone competition, to be judged by none other than Old Boy director Park Chan Wook. The winning short will be shown alongside the Mise-en-Scene Shorts, which will include Park Chan Wook’s Night Fishing (파란만장) which was not only shot entirely on an iphone but also won the Golden Bear for Best Short Film at The Berlin Film Festival.

To win free tickets, LKFF has also arranged a competition for fans to post pictures of themselves with a promotional poster.

Special events, including a Korean Cinema Forum and Masterclasses, will be held featuring academics, journalists and Korean film professionals. Most notably, director Ryoo Seung Wan will host a ‘masterclass’ event  while his back-catalogue will be screened as this years ‘Director’s Retrospective.’ His latest film, The Unjust (부당거래), will be the closing film of the festival.

The festival won’t be restricted to London either; the festival will also travel to Sheffield (12-13th, at the Showroom Sheffield), Cambridge (18-20th at the Arts Picturehouse), and Newcastle (20-24th, at the Tyneside Cinema).

You can book tickets to the festival here.

With so many films being showcased, and unselfishly taking the festival to other cities, the upcoming London Korean Film Festival looks certain to impress.

Festival News Festivals 2011