SFIFF: A Brand New Life

A A Brand New Life

Disclaimer: I’ve got an economic incentive for praising this movie. It’s not a big one, and I don’t think it will effect my opinion. I’ll explain it at the end.

It takes guts to make a feature totally dependent on a child’s performance, and writer/director Ounie Lecomte has those guts. More importantly, she has talent. So does the young star, Kim Sae-ron. At no point in this Korean/French co-production (set in Korea) did I detect that self-consciousness so often seen in child actors. I didn’t see it in her equally young co-stars, either.

Kim Sae-ron also has a natural yet dynamite smile that lights up the screen. You see a lot of that smile in the first few minutes, which establish the great relationship her character, Jin-hee, has with her father. The smile serves another purpose: You’re soon going to miss it.

For reasons that are never fully explained, Jin-hee’s father brings her to a Catholic orphanage, and leaves her there without a goodbye. Most of the film concerns itself with her adjustment to this sudden loss. The other children are focused on getting adopted by the white, western (mostly American) would-be parents who frequently come by. Jin-hee’s new best friend, an older girl trying to hide her period for fear it will lower her adoption chances, works very hard at it. But Jin-hee rebels, fights, and makes scenes.

There’s very little plot here, and none is necessary. It’s a story of good people trying to make the best of a difficult situation, and a child adjusting to a horrible, unexplained loss. Little moments matter here, and major story turns happen obliquely, and often off-camera. A beautiful little film.

A Brand New Life will screen two more times at the festival. On Sunday, May 2, at 12:15 at the Clay, and on Tuesday, May 4, 6:45, at the Kabuki.

And that brings up the issue of my financial incentive. Through all fault of my own, I have two tickets to next Sunday’s screening at the Clay, purchased with my own hard-earned cash. I’d like to sell them–at a discount. Post a comment below if you’re interested.

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