Writer/director Kim Bora’s House of Hummingbird is the coming-of-age story of 14 year old Eun-hee (Park Ji-hu) growing up in Seoul. The film follows Eun-hee as she navigates early pursuits of romance, illness, domestic abuse, and friendship.
The performances are quite solid. Park Ji-hu in particular is a strong lead. The majority of her portrayal is quiet, but when she has emotional outbursts, she really sells them. Kim Sae-byuk is one of the highlights of the film, with her character being the heart of the story. Finally, Jung In-gi’s performance as Eun-hee’s father, at times physically and emotionally abusive to his family, only to soften and become vulnerable, provides a fascinating duality.
House of Hummingbird takes glee in revealing things to the audience at its own discretion. There is a moment where we believe we’re seeing one thing, just for the camera to push in and completely change the context.
Still, the film can be a slog. At nearly 140 minutes long, it doesn’t need to be. The movie is a slice of life. As real life can be, the film becomes meandering, and sometimes lacks a cohesive focus. It presents tragedy after tragedy to paint Eun-hee in the most difficult place, but the tragic plot points eventually start to feel like they’re being laid on a little thick for dramatic purpose. Further, there are subplots that get very little in terms of exploration, and rarely drive the narrative forward.
The film is a starkly honest look at adolescence, and the universal themes of the human condition regardless of time period, nationality or language. With strong performances, a naturalistic screenplay and some beautiful cinematography, House of Hummingbird is certainly worth watching.