Film Review: HOUSE OF HUMMINGBIRD (directed by Bora Kim)

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by Tony Frankel on July 29, 2020

in CD-DVD,Film


So, when you hear that House of Hummingbird is about a teenage girl awkwardly coming to terms with fitting in at school, at a dysfunctional home, and flirting with her own blossoming sexuality, you may think you’ve seen it all before. But this is different. South Korean writer/director Bora Kim explores this arena with thoughtfulness, honesty, and insight. You will feel every sting and pleasure of eighth-grader Eun-hee (Ji-hu Park in a startlingly clear performance of a withdrawn but intelligent girl).

It’s 1994 in Seoul, but you won’t see much of the city. And when you do, expect a gray, almost muggy, tone by cinematographer Kook-Hyun Kang. It’s a challenging and evolutionary year in South Korea: The World Cup, the death of North Korean dictator Kim Il-sung, and a disaster that causes unnecessary loss of life.

This coming-of-age story will eventually be about more than Eun-hee: Most affecting is her search for love with two other adolescents with whom Eun-hee has puppy dog relationships. Also resonating is a kindly teacher, (Sae-hyuk Kim), who notices Eun-hee’s talents. Issues of loyalty, betrayal, kindness, abuse, abandonment, health, and more are explored with keen understanding. This wonderful and convincing film gives every role the chance to be someone other than a stereotype; even characters we grow to detest end up having a scene which draws in our empathy.

Yet, as is common with new writer/directors, there’s trouble in Zoe Sua Cho’s editing room. Shots that are possibly going for poetry linger far too long and the film becomes draggy at 138 minutes, which is most unfortunate as that may keep the buzz down about this lovely, exquisite, haunting picture. Do see it.

stills courtesy of Well Go USA

House of Hummingbird
Well Go USA Entertainment
South Korea | 138 minutes | color
released virtually June, 2020, in the US
streaming on Kino Marquee

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