Little Forest, directed by Soonrye Yim, is a Korean film that expresses the nostalgia of hometown and the warmth of food that is made with motherly love and care. The main character, Haewon, is played by Taeri Kim, who rose to fame with the two works: The Handmaiden (2016) and 1987: When the Day Comes (2017). In the beginning of the film, Haewon comes back to her hometown in the countryside, where her mother and she used to live together after the death of her father.
Accustomed to warm meals her mother used to make her, the cold rice in premade lunch boxes makes her sick. In addition, she is hurt by the behavior of her boyfriend who does not appreciate the food she makes for him. On a whim, she packs up her belongings back to the empty house and cuts off all contact with people she knows in the city. At first, she makes it clear that she is not there to stay: she is going back. However, regardless of her original intentions, she does stay there until the white snow melts into fields of fresh flowers.
In the countryside, where her aunt and friends are, she recreates the meals that her mother created for her when she was younger and takes in the warmth of the sun. This escape gives her temporary relief from the city lifestyle she isn’t used to. The setting, as well as the cuisine, makes this film distinctively Korean.
Throughout the film, Haewon proves to be as talented as her mother at cooking. In the winter, she creates a dish called sujebi, which is created by tearing dough into smaller pieces by hand and adding them into a boiling soup broth. This film does not only focus on the Korean foods, but Haewon can also be seen creating a creme brulee as a sign of apology to her friend. A flashback shows a moment in Haewon’s childhood when she is telling her mother that she thinks that she’s being ostracized by the other children in school. When her mother tells her to leave them be, she is annoyed at the indifferent reaction of her mother. In response, her mother creates her the creme brulee that makes her instantly feel much better.
However, in the end, this is just a temporary escape from the things that Haewon wanted to escape from and she has to face the reality. In fact, coming back to the countryside, working in the fields, and cooking was just a form of distraction for her. Her friend, Jaehwa, played by Junyeol Ryu, tells her, while handing her an apple, “This is the one I’ve been saving for you. But, unlike you, it survived the storm.” Fueled by these worlds, she once again picks herself back up. The movie contains meaningful quotes and themes that appeal to everyone.
Amy Yang, Grade 11
Academy of the Holy Angels