열세살, 수아 (The Wonder Years – Girl, Thirteen)

Yes it’s another movie review ! I know I know, these aren’t travel stories, but appreciating foreign culture is part of what travelling is about, and despite having access to a large number of Asian movies on BitTorrent, there is no substitute for just buying a random DVD in a store and then taking it home to see what it’s like only to find out that it’s a real gem.

“The Wonder Years”, aka “Girl, Thirteen” is a very simple Korean story about a girl and her mother. Looking at the cover I actually expected some heart-warming, feel-good movie that was going to be light-hearted and funny. I was definitely wrong. The Wonder Years is a very slow, (some would say “boring”) movie that is quite depressing in a way, but I will tell you that it does end on a positive note.

The movie is sort of what you might call “Art House” in the western world. It’s slow, contains few characters or major events, and the plot drags on forever and you wonder if anything is ever going to happen at all. There’s no huge revelation at the end, although there is for the main character, Se-Young and it drastically affects the way she thinks about life. But if you are expecting some heart-warming scene whether the characters all hug and confess their love and appreciation for each other, I’m sorry but there isn’t one. The mother and daughter do finally achieve an understanding and appreciation for each other, but it’s not really verbalised. The daughter’s revelation is a silent one that she takes in without any outward signs other than a slight smile and a significant improvement in her sense of self and level of happiness.

So why do I like this movie ? Because it’s simple. It doesn’t try and ram some message down your throat and pull at your heart-strings. It’s just a story. It just IS. It’s uncomplex in plot, but complex in emotion. It has no huge events, and when it reaches its conclusion, the movie just ends, having told its story. It’s not even necessary for this story to be true, because ultimately it’s so simple that it could be true for millions of girls, Korean or otherwise.

One of the most fascinating things about the movie for me is that I’ve watched LOTS of Korean movies and dramas in the past, and I consume absolutely tonnes of popular Korean music which often feature dramatic mini-films, but none of them have ever showed the lifestyle in which Se-Young and her mother live. When I think of Korea I only think of hot women and cool men with fancy phones in fast cars on busy streets lined by skyscrapers.

While I’m aware that Korea does have a countryside, I had never seen it depicted like this before and it was quite a wake-up to see families so poor they had to live in rubbish dumps and turn abandoned busses into mobile homes and restaurants. I was truly shocked and felt so naive that it had not occurred to me that some people in South Korean might live like this and I think that was the most eye-opening part of the story for me and really made me want to visit Korea and see not just the city, but the countryside, as I have done in some other Asian countries. I guess that’s what made this story so real to me… it showed a side of Korean life that I had never been exposed to before.

Will everyone like this story ? Definitely not. You have to be ok with slow-paced stories with little plot development and no significant conclusion where everybody expresses their feelings. But if you just want a simple and honest tale about how a young girl can be confused about her place in the world after her father’s death and how a simple misunderstanding can lead to a massive break-down between a mother and daughter, well… that’s this story.

Oh, and if you needed something else to recommend it, there’s a rather odd little lesbian-suggestive scene where Se-Young’s friend kisses her rather intimately in her sleep. Hahahaa. Now you want to see it, don’t you ? Well, go and find a copy ! What do you want ? A damn trailer ? Ok, ok.

Here’s the IMDB page but I was unable to find it for sale online so you might have to look for it via “other means”. Personally I found it in a bargain bin in Chinatown in Kuala Lumpur, but I think it’s probably a reasonably well known movie in Korea, so you might look wherever you normally find Korean movies. Oh yes, and here’s the trailer.

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2 Responses to 열세살, 수아 (The Wonder Years – Girl, Thirteen)

  1. Excellent post. I used to be checking constantly this weblog and I am inspired! Extremely helpful information specifically the final part :) I care for such info a lot. I was looking for this particular info for a long time. Thank you and best of luck.

    • pawz says:

      Thank you so much for your comments. Some of my other blogs don’t allow comments because I talk about things I really don’t want commented on, and it makes your audience feel very distant and the only way you even know you have an audience at all is to check your google statistics and see how many visitors you have and where they come from, and when you do it’s quite fascinating when you find out something odd such as that your highest readership is in India and the Philippines or something odd like that and you wonder “Why ? Why do so many Indian people read my site ?”

      But this one does allow comments and it’s such a pleasure when people tell me that they are regular readers or that I have given them invaluable information about Asian culture. Asian culture is one of my biggest passions in life, ever since I first discovered Japanese anime way back in 1995 and became obsessed with Japanese music and movies, then went on to develop a fascination with Korean pop music and then discovered that China has some of the most beautiful romantic dramas and that Hong Kong produces some of the most heart warming love stories.

      I made an observation once about the difference between Japanese and Korean movies. Japanese movies are about what it means to be human and are typically about the meaning of life. Korean movies are most commonly about interpersonal relationships and the links between family. Japanese movies are sort of thoughtful and reflective. Korean movies are more often emotional and more sort of introspective in a more forward thinking way. Both are fascinating to watch. I could talk all day about the different focus of each Asian country’s movies, dramas and culture.

      I actually have another website where I specifically review Asian music and movies. It’s still newish and I haven’t had time to move my hundreds of reviews on my other sites there but if you liked this article, please check it out. It’s http://thingsilovefrom.asia

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