What’s great about the Fantasia International Film Festival is that there’s always going to be some films from other countries that moviegoers might be interested in seeing. International cinema is something that the festival is proud to promote to their audience filled with passionate fans who are willing to discover some new features from filmmakers around the world. House of Hummingbird is sure to be another classic that showcases the beauty and importance of South Korean cinema. It is Kim Bora’s directorial debut, and she brings us one of the best films at Fantasia this year!
Set in the 1990s in Seoul, the movie focuses on a teenage girl named Eun-hee (Park Ji-hu) who is going through quite a stressful and hard life. Her family is not exactly pleasant as her parents often neglect her and her older brother physically abuses her in very violent ways. She is struggling in class, feeling insecure about her future and wanting to find true love. However, when she gets a new teacher named Young-ji (Kim Sae-byuk) for her evening classes, they start to form a bond as she teaches Eun-hee some important values. It is an interesting journey to see her go from internal conflict to life fulfillment.
What the director clearly shows in House of Hummingbird is the overall theme of growth. She also perfectly captures the feel of the 1990s in Korea and incorporates a great story into this environment. We see Eun-hee evolve as the movie progresses and as she starts to have a better sense of self-discovery, confidence, and love. However, when the movie starts, it’s admittedly pretty slow. During the beginning, it doesn’t really seem to be focused in terms of its narrative structure. At first, you don’t know where the film is going, but then you understand that Kim Bora is asking the audience to feel the emotional core of its lead character even if the first act is kind of slow. While the set-up could have been better, the rest of the movie is beautifully executed.
All the actors are phenomenal in their roles, and they bring so much depth to their performances in order to make them believable and well-developed characters. Not all of them are sympathetic people, but at least they’re not annoying caricatures. Park Ji-hu, who plays the lead role of Eun-hee, is absolutely charming from start to finish. You feel for her, and you also connect with her on a personal level. She also has great chemistry with Kim Sae-byuk, and they both bring in some heartwarming moments that you’ll be emotionally invested in.
Despite the fact that the first act is unfocused and slow at times, House of Hummingbird is a strong and emotional story about a person just wanting to know more about her own identity during a difficult time in Korea. Kim Bora elevates the coming-of-age style of filmmaking into something that the audience will appreciate even more thanks to its amazing performances and great storytelling. It is an excellent character-driven drama that will provide a voice for many talented Korean filmmakers out there!