Two best friends embark on a search for the truth in Ahn Ju-young’s comedy-drama.
“Have you ever just waited for someone?”
We all what to know where we come from, and where we stand in an endlessly shifting society. A child adopted might be curious about his original parents, as might a child who lost one at an early age. That’s the stage that main character Bo-hee (Ahn ji-ho)is at. He and Nok-yang (Kim Ju-a) are best friends at school, and have been for about ten years now. They share something in common too (on top of a birthday): they’re both missing a parent. Bo-hee isn’t very comfortable at home, as his mother spends most of her time at work and going out, and he wants to change his name and run away from home. He decides to visit his half-sister Nam-hee, where he discovers a letter that leads him to believe his father isn’t really dead, and decides to go looking for him.
From the synopsis, I was getting flashbacks to the 2011 movie Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close which isn’t a connection anybody should have to make, but thankfully we never get to that territory largely thanks to the way the movie handles the characters and their interactions. We see this largely with the two main characters. Nok-yang (translated as Sun-Green, thus the English title of the film) goes along with him on this journey, documenting everything on her phone as they go and much of the runtime is dedicated to their connection. But from there they get to know Nam-hee’s boyfriend Sung-wook (Seo Hyun-woo), and a number of strangers who could help them in their search.
Bo-hee is at an age where he’s trying to understand his place in the world, and when he learns that parts of his life are a lie, he reacts like anyone else would. A boy’s confidence at that age is hardly great, and the knocks he receives throughout are bound to make anyone think twice. That he has these people in his life are saving graces and the movie all but hammers in the importance of acknowledging the people who are closest to you. And that’s where A Boy and Sungreen shines: with its sympathetic main characters and their interactions.
Bo-hee and Nok-yang are fantastic leads with excellent chemistry, whose interactions do so much to lift the film up. Props to relative newcomers Ahn Ji-ho and Kim Ju-a (for whom this is her first and so far only film role) for their convincing performances as the story’s emotional core. But it’s in Sung-wook that the film finds a surprising star player. The film almost tricks us into thinking that cousin/half sister Nam-hee will play the supportive position but she doesn’t appear much at all. Instead, Seo Hyun-woo takes what could have been an annoying archetype and makes him one of my favourite parts of the film. The growing friendship between he and Bo-hee is sweeter than I would have expected.
To say that A Boy and Sungreen goes for feels is underselling it: but isn’t ashamed of that truth, hitting us with heartwarming moment after heartwarming moment. However it does so in a very restrained manner and so never comes off as manipulative or cheesy. It earns its emotional moments because the characters are fleshed out and feel real. Nothing is really overblown or in your face. Some people will criticize it for its occasional eye-rolling moments, but what else do you expect from the genre?
If it has faults it’s in its predictive story, which never really takes any unexpected routes. You can pretty much count down until certain beats will inevitably be hit right down to the moment when he finally gets to the bottom of the missing father mystery. So if you’re here looking for something that will surprise you this won’t scratch that itch. This is syrupy, saccharine stuff that thankfully never goes too far as to be unbearable. By keeping it low-key, and focusing more on the friendship and connection that Bo-hee and Nok-yang (and occasionally Sung-wook) share, it lets us forgive it for its lesser qualities.
Verdict: A touching blend of comedy, drama and feels A Boy and Sungreen will leave a different impact on you, depending on your tolerance for cutesy scenes.
Overall entertainment: 8/10
Violence: One excellent schoolyard scrap
Out of nowhere kidnappings: Almost
Hairstyle of the year: A perm. Looking good, Sung-wook!
A Boy and Sungreen (2019)
Also known as: 보희와 녹양
Director: Ahn Ju-young
Writer: Ahn Ju-young
Ahn Ji-Ho – Bo-Hee
Kim Ju-A – Nok-Yang
Seo Hyun-Woo – Sung-Wook
Shin Dong-Mi – Bo-Hee’s mother
Park Keun-Rok – homeroom teacher
Lee Joo-Won – movie Bo-Hee
Min Kyung-Jin – Professor Roh
Kim Hee-Chang – Seung-Hyun’s father
Kim Do-Yeob – Seung-Hyun’s pal