Treeless Mountain (PG)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner07/01/2010

Superbly directed, powerfully emotional Korean drama with terrific, naturalistic performances from its two young leads.

What's it all about?
Written and directed by So Yong Kim, Treeless Mountain is set in modern-day South Korea and stars Kim Hee-yeon as seven-year-old Jin and Kim Song-hee as her younger sister, Bin. When their poverty-stricken mother (Lee Soo-ah) leaves them with their alcoholic Big Aunt (Kim Mi-hyang), the two girls are largely left to fend for themselves, clinging to a promise their mother made, that she'll return when the tacky plastic piggy bank she gave them is full up.

In order to hasten their mother's return, the two girls hit on the idea of catching grasshoppers, roasting them and selling them to local schoolboys. And when the piggy bank is finally full, they stage a heartbreaking vigil by the bus stop, believing that their mother will keep her promise.

The Good
Writer-director So Yong Kim follows up her critically acclaimed debut feature In Between Days with another assured excursion into semi-autobiographical drama. As a director, she coaxes terrific, natural performances from her two impossibly cute leads, while steering impressively clear of sentimentality throughout.

Similarly, the film is impressively shot by cinematographer Anne Misawa, with tight close-ups capturing every heart-breaking flicker of expression from the two children. In addition, the film seems so real that it frequently feels like you're watching a documentary, particularly during the street sequences.

The Great
The film has several memorable scenes and is packed with moments that are both heartwarming and heartbreaking, such as when Bin discovers that you can get lots of smaller coins if you buy something to eat with a big one (Kim Hee-yeon's reaction is beautifully acted too, as she goes from anger at her sister having spent the money to realising the implications of lots of coins). Needless to say, if you're going to see this on the big screen, you might want to get in an extra supply of tissues.

Worth seeing?
This is a powerful Korean drama that confirms writer-director So Yong Kim as a talent to watch and is well worth seeking out. Highly recommended.

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Treeless Mountain (PG)
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Content updated: 11/12/2017 21:07

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