LKFF 2019 - A Boy and Sungreen Review
Films with children or teenagers are a difficult exercise; they can be very funny or forced, relying mostly entirely on the cuteness of their young cast. The balance between emotion and laughs is difficult to achieve but Ahn Ju-young manages to achieve it with her debut feature about two high school students. Aspiring filmmaker Nok-yang (Kim Ju-a) and her slightly awkward best friend Bo-hee (Ahn Ji-ho) join forces to find Bo-hee’s father, after it comes to light that his death in a car accident was fabricated by Bo-hee’s mother.
Let’s be clear, A Boy and Sungreen is not a ground-breaking film. It belongs more to the category of independent films that don’t seem extremely enticing at first but that reveal themselves full of likeable elements. Funny, simple and sweet, Ahn Ju-young’s debut feature perfectly illustrates the strong friendship between its main protagonists, in which each one gets annoyed by the other but fully accepts who he/she is.
Overall, Ahn Ju-young manages very well a subtle balance of elements of comedy and emotion without making them too obvious (the relationship between Bo-hee and his sister’s boyfriend is particularly well developed). This, despite a very serious subject, the difficulty of growing up with a single parent, not having known the other parent. Furthermore, the first-time director provides an assertive yet gentle direction which manages to reinforce the bond between her main protagonists thanks to inspired choices of light, frame and colorimetry immersing the audience into her world. As a result, the evolution of the characters through their environment and their surroundings, especially in Bo-hee’s case, becomes more pleasant as the protagonists discover who they are.
Additionally, the onscreen chemistry between the perfectly cast young leads plays an important role in the empathy emerging from their bittersweet sleuth activities.
However, despite not being long, the film drags a bit, maybe spending too much time on the kids’ investigation to find Bo-hee’s dad and not managing to develop a climax at the level of the rest of the film, which will most certainly leave the audience with a mild feeling of frustration. This minor, yet somewhat lasting, unfavourable impression does diminish the impact of the film but fortunately leaves its sensitivity and purpose intact, making A Boy and Sungreen an auspicious first directorial effort.