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[movie 2007] 열세살, 수아 The Wonder Years / Girl, Thirteen

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Lee Se Young, Chu Sang Mi, Kim Yoon Ah (Jaurim)

The Wonder Years

열세살, 수아

Girl, Thirteen




Lee Se Young & Chu Sang Mi

Kim Yoon Ah

Choi Myung Su

Shin Min Gyu

Yoo Hye Ri

Jung Jin An

Jeon Hanssen


Kim Hee Jung







Music Video


Release Date

June 14, 2007


THE WONDER YEARS. ("Yeolse-sal Su-ah") A 13-year old girl named Su-ah lives with her single mother, but she is convinced that her real mother is actually a famous pop singer. One day she joins a friend and takes the train to Seoul where the singer is performing a concert. Child star Lee Se-young (When I Turned Nine) plays Su-ah and actress Choo Sang-mi (Turning Gate) makes a welcome return to the screen as her mother. The singer is played by Kim Yuna (The President's Last Bang). Director Kim Hee-jung won multiple awards for her short films and was also selected to take part in a "Residence in Paris" program run for new directors by the Cannes Film Festival. This is her feature debut, and it will be released by Sponge on June 14. [http://www.koreanfilm.org]

13-year-old Soo-ah lives with her mother. After her father passed away a few years ago, her mother runs a diner to support their living, and she’s always too busy to have much time taking care of the adolescent daughter. Soo-ah does not approve the robust mother’s hard living, because she thinks a popular singer is her real mother. Soo-ah loves to daydream about the real mother, watching the Pop singer’s music videos. One day, Soo-ah decides to leave her home and go to Seoul for the Pop singer’s concert. So she gets on the train, and meets a friend, and the two of them land in Seoul. But Soo-ah has no money to buy the concert ticket, so they wait at the back door until the show ends. Now Soo-ah hesitantly approaches the star, but… [http://www.koreanfilm.or.kr]



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2007.05.30: I love HD films The latest addition to my HD collection is The Wonder Years (the Korean title translates as "Thirteen Years Old, Su-ah"), which will be released on June 14. It's a film that will struggle to sell tickets at the box office, or to screen at the bigger international film festivals, but it's extremely likeable nonetheless and elegantly put together. It tells the story of a quiet thirteen year old girl who feels a strong disconnect with her single mother, at the same time as she is having trouble making friends in school. The story is ordinary, but the directing by debut filmmaker Kim Hee-jeong is sensitive to the girl's feelings, and the acting is strong. I've seen the work of teenage actress Lee Se-young in other films before (When I Turned Nine, Lovely Rivals), but she seems a different person here -- it really opened my eyes. (Darcy Paquet)



The Wonder Years (another misguided English title - this movie's about as remindful of the popular-in-Korea, Fred-Savage-starring '80s TV series as Twyla Tharp is of Michael Flaherty in Lord of the Dance) is a debut feature from director Kim Hee-jung, an alumna of the Lodz Film School and winner of the Wide Angle Prize at PIFF for the short Once, Someday (2001). Thirteen-year-old Soo-ah (the original Korean title), played by Lee Se-young (the childhood Geum-young from Daejanggeum), is a shy, borderline-autistic girl living in a small Cholla Province town. Deeply unhappy, she believes that a popular singer Yoon Seor-yeong (Kim Yoon-ah, a real-life vocal artist) is her real mother, to the bafflement of her working Mom, Young-joo (Choo Sang-mi, A Smile, Turning Gate). When her junior high school life turns out to be more of the same, i.e. peer abuse and indifference, Soo-ah resolves to travel to Seoul and confront her real mother.

One thing Korean cinema has done rather well in the last fifteen years is its continued support for, and introduction of, female directors with strong personal visions, beginning with Lim Soon-rye (whose Forever the Moment is shaping out to be 2008's first big Korean hit), Jeong Jae-eun (The Aggressives) and Byun Young-joo (Flying Boys). Kim Hee-jung is the latest in this roster of talented Korean female directors. Her Wonder Years is a gentle, composed character study that will probably bore viewers expecting either a well-heeled, cliche-bound melodrama wherein copious amounts of tears are shed, or an adolescent phantasmagoria with surrealistic flights of fancy. The movie truly excels when director-writer Kim observes the seemingly mundane details of Soo-ah's life with a compassionate gaze, letting the girl's slouched, awkward walk or her disappointed expression at a broken VCR player -- rather than spurious narration or distracting mise en scene -- speak for the character's feelings.

It would surprise no one that Lee and Choo are two principal reasons for anyone to check out The Wonder Years. Lee Se-young's portrayal of Soo-ah is remarkable in its subtlety and restraint. It is to her (and director Kim's) credit that the latter's terse (but often amusing) responses to the efforts by the adults to "make conversation" with her never once strike us as "precocious." Choo Sang-mi, one of the most skilled and naturally talented actresses working in Korea today, is brilliant as usual, conveying, for instance, Young-joo's lifetime of remorse and pain, but also the spiritual courage mustered by her to overcome them, in the brief moment of hesitation regarding where to hang a mirror. Truth to be told, both actresses are so ridiculously beautiful that we at times have trouble seeing Soo-ah and Young-joo with the contemptuous eyes of other characters in the movie. Indeed, Lee's face positively glows whenever the camera focuses on it: she is like a Winona Ryder going on 18 trying to play Ugly Betty. When one of the characters grumbles, "Boy, not only is she ugly but...," my only possible reaction is "You need an eye exam, kid."

The Wonder Years is not without serious weaknesses. The story arc is rather predictable and ends in a disappointingly conventional resolution regarding the identity of Soo-ah's real mom. More seriously, director Kim's interpretations of Soo-ah's imaginary universe are surprisingly lackadaisical. In particular, the musical interludes, featuring Kim Yoon-ah belting out torch songs amid confetti and amber floodlights, look rather cheap and poorly choreographed. (I wish director Kim had employed some other tactic, like, say, Persepolis-like minimalist animation) While not an exciting and powerful debut feature comparable to, say, This Charming Girl or Take Care of My Cat, The Wonder Years is a solid character study with its own sense of integrity, as well as an excellent vehicle for the young actress Lee Se-young to showcase her considerable talent. (Kyu Hyun Kim)



'Wonder' Explores Nostalgic Realm of Teen Years

By Lee Hyo-won

Staff Reporter

A small gem of a film with subdued charms, "The Wonder Years" portrays the peculiarities of adolescence with a keen eye. The family drama brings to life endearing characters as it intricately weaves together the mundane, comical and dramatic aspects of everyday life.

Sullen and silently rebellious, 13-year-old Su-ah (Lee Se-yeong) is about to enter junior high school. Her mother, Yeong-ju (Choo Sang-mi), widowed and desperately trying to make ends meet by running an eatery, does not have much time to tend to Su-ah's hushed dilemmas.

Each day is uneventful but life is otherwise good, until the two lose their restaurant which doubled as their house and are forced to move in with Yeong-ju's friend. Feeling misplaced and ostracized by her friends, Su-ah has nowhere to go -- except one place.

Her father's diary reveals that her idol, star singer Yun Seol-yeong (Kim Yun-a, lead vocal of rock band Jaurim) is her real mother. As Su-ah ventures off to reunite with Seol-yeong, she discovers the path to her home and heart.

"Wonder" is a classic coming of age drama in which a teenage protagonist comes to terms with herself and her loved ones. The film is quietly captivating in its realistic portrait of life in a small suburban city: the bustle of market places, hidden wonders of a junkyard and streets filled with political teenage gossip.

Director Kim Hee-jung, 37, won support from the 2005 Cannes Residence Program to create the film. She is the first Korean to be chosen by the prestigious French program, which gives up and coming filmmakers the chance to work on projects. A graduate of the Polish National Film School in Lodz, Kim has been noted for her short films. "Wonder" is her first full-length work.

Kim captures on-screen insightful details, believable characters and familiar emotional tensions. Lips chapped and counting each step while walking in an ill-fitting school uniform, Su-ah brings out the teen in you. Young actress Lee Se-yeong gives a moving performance as she sports a look of bemused indifference that blooms into a bright smile from time to time.

The bad student bullying younger children for pocket money, the prettiest girl in school and the cute soccer player are all there __ adult viewers will feel a pang of nostalgia while younger audiences will be able to relate. The film also offers some hearty laughter, like when Su-ah paints her face like a clown while playing make-up at a sleepover.

Spectacularly surreal scenes pleasantly disrupt the flow of the movie: rock diva Kim Yun-a dazzles the screen with glitter and glam. The film also features part of Kim's actual 2006 Christmas Eve concert, and Jaurim fans will thoroughly appreciate the singer's performance.

"Wonder" offers nothing groundbreaking nor anything hopelessly melodramatic, but pleasant laughs and truly tender moments embellish the film. Small miracles of everyday life sparkle all over, like the breathtakingly beautiful image of a bright yellow bus passing green fields down the road of life.

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