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Review: Treeless Mountain

Bruising, but not all pessimism
By GERALD PEARY  |  June 16, 2009
3.5 3.5 Stars

VIDEO: The trailer for Treeless Mountain

Korean-American filmmaker So Yong Kim went back to her South Korean childhood, which she spent being shuttled from relative to relative, for her vivid, bruising autobiographical tale of two young girls in Seoul who struggle to make do after being abandoned by their mother. With mom racing off one day to locate the husband who has bolted, six-year-old Jin (Hee Yeon Kim) and four-year-old Bin (Song Hee Kim) are left in charge of their hard, crude, crabby aunt, who's so drunk much of the time that she can't remember to feed them.

Cinematographer Anne Misawa shoots from a low angle the wonderful, subtly expressive faces of the siblings, the older melancholic, the younger endearingly clownish. And Kim respects the rhythms of childhood as she observes how her tiny protagonists negotiate their troubled lives while they wait in hope for mom to return.

Treeless Mountain is not all pessimism: enter grandma as the beacon of warmth and kindness which the girls have been craving.

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