Review: ‘A Little Monk’

Watching "A Little Monk" go through its predictably sentimental paces, one feels there's a leaner, tougher-minded movie struggling to get out. But whatever tension script manages to generate, particularly in its bleak boy-alone-in-the-snow finale, is diluted by cutesy direction of first-time helmer Joo Kyung-jung.

Watching “A Little Monk” go through its predictably sentimental paces, one feels there’s a leaner, tougher-minded movie struggling to get out. But whatever tension script manages to generate, particularly in its bleak boy-alone-in-the-snow finale, is diluted by cutesy direction of first-time helmer Joo Kyung-jung, treacly score and mountain-retreat landscape in full, four-season display. Pic may find a receptive elder aud, particularly since the Buddhism depicted encompasses such hoary cliches as the strict master and enigmatic Zen parables.

Little boy raised in a Buddhist monastery yearns for his mother and believes every family beyond the gates lives happily ever after. Adventures like the little monk’s scuffling run-ins with the village kids, his pizza-graced visit to the capital or the sad departure of his only friend may be individually sweet or funny or tear-jerking, but never connect to any emotional continuum. Lead actor rarely ventures beyond “adorable.”

A Little Monk

South Korea

Production

A Spectrum Film Korea production. Produced, directed by Joo Kyung-jung. Screenplay, Ham Se-deok.

Crew

Camera (color), Choi Chan-kyu; editor, Go Im-pyo; music, Kim Sung-joon. Reviewed at Montreal World Film Festival (World Cinema), Aug. 23, 2002. (Also in Shanghai Film Festival.) Running time: 102 MIN.

With

Kim Tae-jin, Chon Moo-song, Kim Ye-ryung, Oh Young-soo, Kim Min-kyo, Kim Yun-hee, Kim Min-ji, Oh Se-geum, Kim Hyun-ji, Kim Beom-tae.
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