Directed by Yim Soon-rye
“The best food is making it yourself.”
This is what Hye-won (Kim Tae-ri), the protagonist of Little Forest (2018), is unable to do in Seoul. The pre-packaged meals, characteristic of the fast-paced lifestyle in the city, is almost unbearable to Hye-won. So she goes back to her roots. Her hunger for homemade dishes leads Hye-won to her empty house in her hometown, a rural village where her childhood friends Jae-ha (Ryu Jun-yeol) and Eun-sook (Jin Ki-joo) live. Here, Hye-won is able to marinate in her love for cooking. The exquisite close-ups of all of her delightfully tasty meals easily makes our stomachs growl.
But, cooking is more than just the satisfying mixing in of the gochujang and the sprinkle of edible flowers. For Hye-won, cooking brews the memories of her mother.
Her mother (Moon So-ri) had left when Hye-won passed her college entrance exams, and Hye-won initially holds a lot of resentment. But as the four seasons pass during Hye-won’s stay, she lets go. Hye-won was hungry for not only a good meal, but also a moment to breathe, to take in the clean countryside air, to release herself from the social expectation to have a conventional job, and to finally understand her mother as someone who deserves a chance to truly live.
As an adaptation of a Japanese manga by the same name, Little Forest is a beautiful, patient film about slowing down, connecting with nature, and enjoying the little things in life. The funny moments with the trio of friends as they reminisce about childhood and commiserate about their struggles with post-college life, give an honest, yet hopeful portrayal of young people in South Korea. In an interview, Yim, the director, acknowledges the burnout that pervades young people in South Korea today. She wanted to “provide an opportunity, especially for young people in Korea who are so exhausted and worn-out and exposed to the cut-throat competition in Korean society. And therefore [she] thought, if [she] make[s] a Korean film of Little Forest, it could maybe provide them the opportunity for slow observation, to find out what’s important to them, giving them the opportunity to unwind a little amidst all the competition they have to face" ("LITTLE").
Little Forest is uplifting as it encourages audiences to step back, even for a second, and relish the world around them.
“LITTLE FOREST Director Yim Soon-Rye Discusses Traditional Korean Food, Challenges as a Female Director, and the Future of Korean Cinema.” Sinema, 28 Oct. 2019, www.sinema.sg/2019/10/24/interview-yim-soon-rye/.
To cite this review, please use this reference: Ko, Emily (2021) "Little Forest Review" The Gynocine Project, Barbara Zecchi, ed. www.gynocine.com