“Canola” is a genuinely moving film. It is refreshingly simple. It employs no gimmicks and focuses on delivering an original story about the bond between a grandparent and a grandchild.
The film is set on the idyllic coast of Jejudo Island, where a young girl Hye-ji lives with her grandmother, Gye-choon, played by Youn Yuh-jung. A female diver, Gye-choon makes a modest living by selling the clams and fish she catches, and provides for her granddaughter, whose parents’ whereabouts are unknown. Hye-ji, who loves to draw, is inseparable from her grandmother.
Grandmother Gye-choon (left), played by Youn Yuh-jung, and her granddaughter Hye-ji, played by Kim Go-eun, in “Canola” (Contents Nandakinda)
One day, when the two are at a bustling marketplace, Hye-ji goes missing. Gye-choon is devastated and spends years searching for her granddaughter and yearning for her return.
Some 12 years pass and we are shown an older Hye-ji, played by Kim Go-eun, living a hard life in the streets with a gang of juvenile delinquents. When she gets into serious trouble with the law, she reaches out to her grandmother and the two finally reunite.
Hye-ji returns with an ecstatic Gye-choon to her hometown, the island paradise filled with yellow canola flowers. But having had to get by on her own in the city alleys for too long, Hye-ji is no longer the innocent little girl who needed to hold her grandmother’s hand to go to the bathroom at night; surly, rebellious and a “bad girl” as the townspeople now call her, Hye-ji is troubled by her past. Her artistic talents remain intact, meanwhile, and she expresses herself through painting. How much of the new Hye-ji will Gye-choon be able to embrace?
Actress Youn Yuh-jung plays the grandmother Gye-choon in “Canola.” (Contents Nandakinda)
Later in the film, there is a twist to the plot that takes what could have been an average family drama to new heights. Why is it that grandparents seem to be infinitely more forgiving of our flaws, more unconditionally caring than anyone else? Perhaps the wider generational gap gives them more room for understanding. The film doesn’t answer these questions, but it does provide food for thought on the human need for affection and our ability to find it where we can.
The film’s director Yoon Hong-seung, who goes by the pseudonym Director Chang, said he wanted to make a “relatable” story.
“I didn’t want to persuade the audience. I just wanted to present them with something they could relate to,” he said after a press screening of the film Monday in Seoul. “I stuck to the feelings that I’m familiar with.”
Actress Kim Go-eun plays the granddaughter Hye-ji in “Canola.” (Contents Nandakinda)
“I looked at myself in the film and I saw the face of my own mother, who is now 97,” said Youn, a veteran actress known to international audiences for her role in Im Sang-soo’s 2010 film “The Housemaid.”
Min-ho of K-pop group SHINee also stars in the film as Hye-ji’s classmate and love interest.
The film opens May 19.
By Rumy Doo (firstname.lastname@example.org