범죄소년 (Korea, 2012)
North American Premiere
107 minutes, HD CAM, in Korean with English subtitles
Directed by: Kang Yi-kwan
Starring: Lee Jung-Hyun, Seo Young-Joo, Jeon Ye-jin, Gang Rae-yeon, Jeong Seok-yong, Gang Hyeok-il
In an age when original, homespun films seldom get support, snuffed out as they are by corporate studios and formula-driven anti-artists (in Korea and America), JUVENILE OFFENDER is a rebuke to the blockbuster: in an age of big and bigger, it has the boldness of being a small-scale, lifelike story with a quiet, democratic intensity and sky-high emotional stakes.
Simple, sparely photographed in wintertime Seoul, delicately scored, but rich in emotional detailing, its core drama is soberly focused on the progressive thawing between troubled 16-year-old Ji-gu (Seo Young-ju, who was 14 at time and won the best actor award at TIFFCOM for this), the juvenile offender of the title, and Hyo-seung, the mother he never knew, a woman in her early 30s who had him after a one-night stand when she was the same age and promptly abandoned him. Impressively played by actress-star singer Lee Jeong-hyeon — whose rarefied filmography includes Jang Sun-woo’s A Petal (1996), Kim Soo-young’s last film Scent of Love (1999) and Park Chan-wook and Park Chan-kyong’s cell-phone short Night Fishing—2011). The lifeblood of the film is pumped up by this pair of helplessly expressive creatures, on whom the film makes the most fervent demands as they reunite and set out to make up for lost time.
“Can you forgive me just this once?” asks Ji-gu facing a stern judge who’s about to place him in a specialized facility and exile him for good to the fringes of society; a question that gets asked a few times during the course of the film when he faces a correctional system that, for all its ills, brings back the mother he thought was dead. “Can you forgive me just this once?” she echoes in turn, as she struggles to find her bearings as a parent and generally fumbles in the general direction of responsibility.
What makes OFFENDER so good and so resolutely unchildish is that no one is bad: Ji-gu’s already had it rough but such is the effusion of boyish goodness about him that his very vulnerability makes him a deep-toned subject. Though there is not a hint at moral tutorial in the film, the whole thing resounds with a kind of scruffy miraculous urgency. These disparate, tumbledown souls, the film seems to say, are desperate to do right, caught up in their terror of desolation and abandonment.
Kan Yi-kwan tells their story with a pace and buoyancy that deters the tragic, all the while knocking at the heart with an insistence that leaves comedy behind: nothing goes right for too long and plans mostly come to grief, yet the fate of the main characters never seems completely preordained. Their constant motion might or might not be their salvation, but it keeps you in suspense until the last frame—and beyond.
preceded by DAY TRIP (Korea, 2012)
TK minutes, format TK, in Korean with English subtitles
Directed by: TK
Friday July 5, 12:15PM Walter Reade Theater Buy Tickets
Thursday July 11, 6:00PM Walter Reade Theater Buy Tickets