30 August 2004 | BrianThibodeau
A cautious, profound tale about letting go and moving on
Call this the not-so-Wonderful-Days if you will, a sentimental, perceptive tale of a young boy, Nam-woo, coping with the loss of his father (which probably has even greater resonance in a patriarchal society like Korea's), the illness of his grandmother, his mother's new boyfriend and the impending departure to the city of his best friend by retreating into a world of fantasy where he meets the title character, a mute girl who becomes the only character in his life with any sense of permanence: his mother is trying to move on, his grandmother has a very pragmatical sense of her own mortality, his best friend will be continuing at school in another city (something repeated in the present-day opening sequence, in which the friend announces again that he'll be studying abroad, underscoring the sense of separation we all feel from even our closest friends with the passage of time). It's ultimately a cautious, profound tale about letting go and moving on, something the main character deeply wishes he could avoid, and something that can stir-up similar childhood memories in even the most hardened cynic. Director Lee Sung-gang wisely shuns conventional Japanese and western animation styles to create something entirely new and heartbreakingly beautiful in its deceptive simplicity. Computer animated but approximating traditional hand-animation in a wholly original style, the film boasts an absolutely gorgeous muted colour palate that brightens whenever Nam-woo enters the world of his mind. In many ways, I prefer the honesty and simplicity of this film to the high-tech sheen of WONDERFUL DAYS, which suffers from a painfully straightforward story.