Fresh without seeming smug, this obvious ode to the brothers Dardenne (and yes, director So Yong Kim recalls the Belgian brothers as big influences on her little film), about Aimie, a painfully shy teenage Korean girl displaced in an unnamed North American city (perhaps Toronto?) with her aloof, recently husband-ditched mother, and a lone (boy)friend as her only companions, plays out its drama in a neo-grunge world that reminds one of awkward first love trepidatiously slinking through a Tarkovskian landscape of snow and rain and not-so-hidden metaphor all with the sudden (and seemingly random) jerks of Kim's queerly effervescent camera. Kim uses naturalistic (almost claustrophobic) cinematography to bring us into a virtual state of (unwanted?) intimacy with her young fragile heroine. We can almost feel the fuzzy inards of Aimie's dreamscape. Her desires. Her fears. Her inarticulate passions.
Aimie (played by discovered-in-a-soda-shop newcomer Jiseon Kim, with a wonderous neophytic lethargy that would make even Rosetta proud) goes about her days in unrequited love of Tran, her only companion, who asks for handjobs and cops sleeping feels without ever reciprocating anything more than a passing buddy-like comradery. Playing at mind games, both teens become lost in a world that is indifferent to their plights and both teens (but especially Aimie) lose what can never be replaced. In many ways, not only a descendant of the Dardenne's heroine, but of those of Bresson as well. Ethnicity aside, the young actress, with her rosy chubby cheeks and downward glances, even resemble both Rosetta and Mouchette.
Ugly and desperate (but in the most humanistic way), this inbetween world has no pat happing ending. No answers. No solutions. No closure. No future. We watch as Aimie is swallowed up in its maw. The pain of relationships. The pain of assimilation. The pain of everyday life and the pain of everything in between. Yet, none of this is to say there is no hope in site, for this is the story of nearly every teenager's life (Director Kim says it stems from her own youth). The heartbreak of loves lost. The angst of love never gained. The pain of abandonment (both of a lover and of a father) is constantly afoot in Kim's film, yet distant hope manages to speckle-light the reality of it all, and then we know the end is not really the end. Perhaps she is not Mouchette after all. [07/02/07]