Searching for Acceptance: Our Review of ‘House of Hummingbird’

Posted in Movies, Virtual Cinema, What's Streaming? by - June 24, 2020
Searching for Acceptance: Our Review of ‘House of Hummingbird’

Kim Bora treats story telling differently in her coming of age film House of Hummingbird. Most films, festival favorite, or otherwise, delineate which storylines they want to highlight over others. But here she treats every factor in her protagonist’s life with equal importance. Everything is important to Eunhee (Park Ji-hu). She lives day by day in 1994-era Seoul. It’s rife with the soft versions of classism that is rampant twenty-five years after the events in this film have taken place. Her parents’ (Lee Seung-yun and Jeong In-gi) idea to get her a step head in life is to get her to a cram school,

Eunhee attends that school with a friend who she has a contentious relationship with and is likely receiving the same physical abuse as she does. The physical abuse she receives almost comes to the forefront when she gets a cancer diagnosis. Her doctor, then, doctor notices physical trauma that her brother (Song Sang-yeon). House of Hummingbird’s most important setting is the cram school. The school replaces Eun-hee’s Chinese teacher with a younger woman (Kim Sae-byeok). Most teachers are just there for their jobs, but this teacher seems to be open to her students even about the smallest factors of her life and encourages them to do the same.

Some people in the audience might be apprehensive towards such openness, since adults do prey on vulnerable children. Thankfully, none of that happens here. Besides, it is nice to watch such good relationships between teenagers and the adults in their lives. That is especially true with Eunhee. The other adults in her life neglect her, and her acceptance within her peer group is in flux. She even becomes prone to doing things like shoplifting with her best friend, an act that would have had larger consequences in other films like this one. House of Hummingbird’s approach to Eunhee’s story has mostly positive results. But even some of the people who like it write about how it underlines her solitude in a bloated way.

I do find a different problem here. Its juggling act is not burdensome, making us care enough about her struggles, but the film making does not always reflect her high stakes situation. Some of the images are forgettable and I wished that it pushed more when it comes to its sound and score. But at least the writing’s competent, making every negative sentiment towards Eunhee hurts. It throws enough curveballs, developing Eunhee’s character, making her see outside of her pain. There is also a tragedy that happens in the final act the that film knows how to handle. And the open end here is enough to blunt any sadism in depicting her situation.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watch movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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