Subhash K Jha reviews Korean film House Of Hummingbird

Review of House Of Hummingbird: Hums To The Tune Of Life

House Of Hummingbird (Korean, VOD)

Starring Park Ji-hoo as Eun-hee,Kim Sae-byuk as Young-ji,Jung In-gi as Eun-hee’s father,Lee Seung-yeon as Eun-hee’s mother

Directed by Kim Bora

Rating: *** ½

This is a film fated to glory that just stops short of being a masterpiece because of its mildly meandering mutely monotonous tone that sets in towards the latter half of the narration.

Life is like that. It doesn’t follow any predictable rhythm. House Of Hummingbird just lets its young teen heroine Eun-hee be. It comes as a huge surprise to know that Eun-hee has had no previous experience as an actor. Or maybe the lack of selfsconscious skills that an experienced actress would have brought to the story, enables the theme to throw the ball out of the park without caring about who’s catching it.

The film is set in Seoul in 1994 when the Seongsu Bridge collapsed. A lot of what happens to our 14-year old heroine Eun-hee most probably happened to directror Kim Bora. There is an intimate lived-in feeling to the characters and the situations they go through. The tragedy of a life frozen in a city of frenetic unpredictable change is never over-played Eun-hee lives a life of deprivation, mostly the lack of demonstrative love which exits in her family only as a paren(t)thesis. There is a mention of Eun-hee’s brother being abusive. And a wayward sister. Love comes knocking in the form of a serene mysterious teacher Young-ji(Kim Sae-byuk).

Eun-hee’s relationship with her teacher is tender and life-changing. With minimum fuss and a minimalist background score that hums the joyous song of life to us in whispered motions, House Of Hummingbird takes us as close to Eun-hee as the camera can take us, and then some more.

I came away from this elegant wistful coming-of-age drama with images of heightened beauty, not necessarily the beauty of Nature but also the intrinsic beauty in human nature when under pressure. There is a sequence in a hospital where Eun-hee and her father sit together, with the father sobbing inconsolably after Eun-hee is diagnosed with a dangerous condition that could take away her hearing ability. That moment is tragically beautiful to behold.

There is much to see, hear, absorb, imbibe and reflect on. Most of all, there is young Park Ji-hoo, so natural so comfortable in her character’s skin she makes you want to forget she is in a movie. But then, director Kim Bora’s languorous direction, her lengthy sighing takes, reminds us of where we are.

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