A Brand New Life (2009)

“Would you like me to sing you a song, daddy?”

Words: Desmond “Neo” Childs

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Jin-Hee is in unfamiliar territory. She’s out of her comfort zone. Her father has abandoned her for seemingly no reason at all. Perhaps because he can’t afford her? Or maybe because she isn’t a he? Whatever the excuse, Jin-Hee is having a hard time moving on. At nine years old, she has a brand new life to look forward too; whether she likes it or not.

“Your father wanted you to have a better life”

A Brand New Life is a very touching piece of cinema. I watched it feeling for the little girl and her plight. She’s been left at an orphanage and believes it’s her fault. Jin-Hee’s father isn’t honest with her, and instead tricks his daughter into believing their only visiting the home.  The rest of the movie deals with Jin-Hee coming to terms with being “abandoned” and trying to deal with her emotions. She loves her daddy, and likes to sing for him. But she’s also angry because he hasn’t returned for her yet. And why a orphange? Jin-hee wasn’t an orphan.

“Many of the kids that stay here are not orphans.” says one of the nuns to Jin-Hee. Was that suppose to make her feel better?

What I found interesting about this picture is the way Jin-Hee is abandoned. I’m not speaking about how her father dumped her off at children’s home. But the way in which she is isolated even among the other children. She does find a friend. However, it takes quite awhile for Jin-hee to move on. Imagine living the simple, easygoing life of a child. All your needs are met, and even a few or your wants. Nine years of love, nurturing, and fun. And then it stops. On top of that, everyone seems to be okay with it except you. Your father doesn’t care because he’s gone. The nuns pretend to care. And the headmaster is a mean, aging woman who is hard to please. Is there a home for a sullen, quiet little 9-year old who likes to sing?

Interestingly enough, this movie is a little harder for me to recommend. The subject is solemn enough, but it lost my attention at times in its repetitive way of displaying Jin-Hee’s despair. We get a lot of scenes where Jin-Hee is staring into space or hiding in some bushes digging holes. I wondered why the scenes weren’t grabbing me the way I thought they would. It’s because there isn’t really an adult figure to help Jin-Hee cope with her loss until the end. You like to think somebody at the children’s home would take her under their wing. The caretakers all try to glaze over her misery. It sort of made me cringe a little to be honest. For these people to run a children’s home, they don’t seem to be very good with children. At least the nurturing aspect of it. Yes, they take the children to Mass every Sunday. Yes, they have them do chores and create craft projects. But I’ve worked with kids since I was one myself. The number one thing a kid appreciates about having adults around? Someone to talk with. Kids need that older man or woman to guide them through the tougher times in their life. They shouldn’t be left alone to deal with their troubles (if we can help it), but the adults in Jin-Hee’s life seem to miss that point. They seem to think kids will do better to sort things out for themselves without the guidance of parents or guardians. What is this? The 19th century? Much of the movie is reportedly based on the early childhood of the director, Ounie Lecomte. Here’s hoping the adults in her childhood were a little more nurturing and understanding, am I right?!

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