Movie: Treeless mountain * * * *
(G, LIMITED RELEASE)
A quiet but sure-footed, sombre and moving South Korean film, So Yong Kim's Treeless Mountain tells the story of two little girls who begin to feel very unwanted when their mother abandons them to a string of relatives.
Get the hankies ready
Jin (Hee Yeon Kim), a soulful-looking seven-year-old, comes home from school one day to find her mother packing a bag. She tells her daughter that she has to go and find their father, who has disappeared (we never find out why, because this is very much a film told from a child's point of view), and leaves Jin and her little sister Bin (Song Hee Kim) in the care of their aunt.
Unfortunately, 'Big Aunt', as they call her, turns out to be a callous and self-absorbed drunk, who soon begins to resent the two children and their drain on her resources. When she feeds them at all, she doles out suspicious grey dumplings. But she spends much of her time passed out and hungover. The girls concentrate on filling a piggy bank their mother has given them, promising that she'd be back once it was full.
But Jin slowly realises that their mother won't be coming back at all, and as Big Aunt's drinking gets worse, they're about to get rejected all over again. However, hope emerges in the shape of the girls' grandmother, a sound and sane countrywoman who may be their salvation.
Naturalistic, unadorned, naturally lit, and all the more powerful for it, Treeless Mountain uses its dialogue and moody landscapes to get at the rawness of a child's emotions. And the performances of the two little girls would melt the very hardest heart.