The politics of the playground …
Director: Yoon Ga-Eun
Writer: Yoon Ga-Eun
Cast: Choi Soo-In, Seoul Hye-In, Lee Seo-Yeon
Sun (Choi Soon-In), a shy girl from a poor background, befriends new girl at school, Jia (Seoul Hye-In) whose family is much richer. The girls initially get on like a house on fire, but their different upbringings makes their friendship awkward. Furthermore, Sun is not happy when Jai chooses to befriend Bo-Ra (Lee Set-Yeon), a girl who bullies Sun at school …
There’s something strangely unassuming about The World of Us that actually makes it quite compelling. The plot itself is quite insular; the ebbs and flows of a friendship between two South Korean girls, over a summer. It’s not a particularly profound story, or one with any overt message. However, The World of Us doesn’t need to be any of these things. It’s just honest about its subject matter.
There’s a real sense of the audience being a fly-on-the wall to the friendship between Jia and Sun, rather than the narrative itself telling the audience what to think. Most scenes are shot as wides, from across roads, or in doorways. There’s hardly any music. It’s a deliberate choice by the director, Yoon Ga-Eun, to just let the story happen. After all, what happens between Sun and Jai might seem trivial to adults, but clearly it’s life and death for these girls at this particular age.
This essence is sold particularly well by the two young leads, played by Choi Soon-In and Seoul Hye-In. Their friendship feels quite no-nonsense, with some very real emotion, but very little melodrama. These two girls had never acted before, so they acted as they would in real life, given the circumstances. It pays off dividends, for the film itself.
Still, the problem with going completely naturalistic is that a sense of the cinematic can be lost, and sometimes story pacing can be uneven. There are a couple of times where The World of Us slows to crawl, which can be a bit frustrating. Furthermore, to get out of those slow moments, the characters suddenly have to act in more inorganic ways, to service the plot.
Nevertheless, those faults are reasonably minor flaws, in what is a surpassingly powerful debut feature film from Yoon Ga-Eun, given that The World of Us doesn’t go out of its way to be loud, or preachy. The World of Us leaves an impact in the mind, for one simple reason. It feels true to life as a child. Petty fights between friends and all.
- The two young leads, who had never acted before, are extremely well cast.
- Yoon Ga-Eun’s directorial technique is almost documentarian, watching the action at a distance in many case, which works for adults trying to view a child’s world.
- The lack of music in the film (except in one scene), is deliberate and adds to the realist feel.
- The script may not be tightly focused, but it catches the internal mechanics of childhood friendships with honesty.
- The food looks delicious. Everyone seems to be eating ALL THE TIME.
- The pacing is deliberately slow, which can be frustating.
- In a few rare moments, the kids feel like they are acting inorganically for the sake of plot, rather than character.
In a nutshell …
Unassuming and naturalistically directed, The World of Us is about something so trivial to adults, but in the world of a child, is so important. There’s a real ‘truth’ to everything that occurs, particularly because the young cast, who had never acted before, feel real and tangible.