The Korea Herald


[Herald Review] ‘A Boy and Sungreen,’ a pleasant and loveable coming-of-age story

By Yoon Min-sik

Published : May 23, 2019 - 17:29

    • Link copied

Director Ahn Ju-young’s first feature film is not a masterpiece, yet it has a strange appeal to it.

The narrative and the plot are a bit plain, and I felt like Ahn dropped the ball a bit in the climax, but it is well-cast, the two leads are fantastic and work extremely well together and the tone of the film is adorable.

The small-budget film is getting barely any exposure, and without any big names and standout effects will likely drown rather quickly in sea of blockbuster films. But I feel like this is a film that truly speaks to those willing to listen.

“A Boy and Sungreen” (KT&G Sangsang Madang) “A Boy and Sungreen” (KT&G Sangsang Madang)

Bo-hee (Ahn Ji-ho) is a timid middle schooler who is struggling with the uncertainties of life. After seeing his mother on a date with a man, he impulsively sets out to find his estranged father.

Tagging along the way is his tomboy best friend Nok-yang (Kim Ju-a), who is exactly the opposite of the boy in that she is super-confident and never lets anyone intimidate her.

The structure of the film is somewhat generic. Strong female character and her tepid male partner is nothing new, nor is teenage angst and quest to find meaning in one’s life.

But the film’s strength is not in its originality, but in how it tells the story. The four main characters of Nok-yang, Bo-hee, his mom (Shin Dong-mi) and the boyfriend of Bo-hee’s sister Sung-wook (Seo Hyun-woo) have such chemistry that every scene they share is fun to watch.

This hinges on the standout performance of the two leads, whose friendship is glue that holds the story together. The tone of the film is determined in the first 15 minutes of the film in which these two share an incredible chemistry to depict a believable bond.

What this does is that it almost makes you see Bo-hee from Nok-yang’s perspective and vice versa, pulling the viewers in as they get invested in what they are going through. Through such great characters, the film makes you care about the protagonists and it is both Ahn and Kim who deserves the credit. Because every relationship in the film feeds off the energy from the special bond that they share.

Seo, as the initially-reluctant father figure for Bo-hee, steals the show whenever he is on camera with passion, humor and heart. Though Shin’s character may not crack you up, the sincerity she brings to her performance makes her character work.

During the film, Sung-wook asks Nok-yang what the point of her filming everything on her phone is. To this she asks, “Do I really need to have a point?”

This says a lot about society today, constantly pushing people not to waste time, always have your eyes on the prize.

The movie seems to suggest, maybe you don’t really need that. Maybe all you need to be is yourself, and perhaps accepting that can help you grow a little bit more.

Having said that, I felt the climax went the opposite direction of what the film had been saying all along. It could have ended at Bo-hee having epiphany, without the twist that seemed rather contrived.

But while I feel like the director may have taken one too many steps, it is still a likeable film that makes you think. While I will definitely check it out again, I fear that its lack of big names, big budget, not to mention high-speed chase scene, jaw-dropping action and gripping suspense will rob the chance to do so for many people.

“A Boy and Sungreen” is 99 minutes long, and opens in local theaters on May 29.

By Yoon Min-sik (