There is something comforting about Yim Soon-rye’s Little Forest and it is not just the delectable dishes that are featured within it. Adapted from Daisuke Igarashi’s manga of the same name, the film tells a familiar tale of a woman leaving the hectic life of the city behind to do some soul searching in the countryside.
After failing her teacher’s exam, and fed up with her boyfriend, though she is too afraid to admit it, Hae-won (The Handmaiden’s Kim Tae-ri), returns to her childhood home in the village of Mi-sung-li. Claiming that she is merely visiting for a few weeks, it does not take long to reconnect with old friends Eun-sook (Jin Ki-Joo) and Jae-ha (Ryu Jun-yeol). As weeks turn into seasons, and the trio bond over food and drinks, Hae-won beings to realize that you cannot build your own future by running away from the past.
Just as Hae-won takes great care in preparing each meal, Yim Soon-rye’s film constructs a delicate and ultimately uplifting tale of memory and growth. Using food as the central metaphor for nourishment and connection, Hae-won states at one point that she left Seoul “because I was hungry”, the film feels right at home alongside other food-centric dramas.
The narrative may be familiar, but the overall execution allows Little Forest to standout. It is as much a tale about legacy, passed between mothers and daughters, as it about a woman finding the courage to forage her own path. Though Hae-won must ultimately confront the boyfriend that she has been dangling for months, the film does not frame Hae-won’s life through a male lens.
Crafting a story that grows on the viewer with each frame, Little Forest is far more charming than its conventional premise implies.