HAWAII INT'L FILM FESTIVAL
The little girl in "Wake" can't grasp her mother's death.
Little girl’s crisis comes starkly to life
Subtitles aren't needed to advance the story line of this lovely, morose 17-minute film.
Part of the "Seoul2Tokyo: Shorts from Korea and Japan" showcase; screens at 9:15 p.m. today and Wednesday
Action alone conveys the story of young Eun-jee (Eun-jee Wong) and her attempt to wake her dead mother from what appears to the child as a deep sleep.
"Wake," written and directed by Keun-pyo Park, engages the viewer almost immediately in depicting the child's vacillation between hope and denial. As long as Eun-jee herself is sleeping and her subconscious thoughts take over, her mother is never far away.
While the ingenious, simple story is beautifully told, it suffers a bit from predictability. Still, the viewer remains hopeful that the expected turns of the story are wrong, that the child's potential reality isn't as awful as it seems. What is horrific is the suggestion that the scenario, which takes place over the course of a couple days, might have been going on much longer. We are just joining the story in progress.
Nary a minute is wasted in gratuitous talk or unnecessary scenes, thanks to Park's confident directing, although witnessing the girl's everyday reality with her dead mother is unrelenting.
The inclusion of a small scene between Eun-jee with another little girl wisely underscores the difference between the two girls' lives. Eun-jee is hungry for food and company, and understands what's happened on some level.
Amid get-happy dark comedies and film noir shorts, "Wake" might be the one you remember the most in this showcase, based on the story line -- and its ability to make you uncomfortable -- and Park's direction.