REVIEW: The House of Us (London Film Festival 2019)
Taking elements of Hirokazu Kore-eda’s explorations of family units, and the vivid, childlike lens of Sean Baker’s The Florida Project, Ga-eun Yoon’s film about three girls who make a family of their own is a heart-warming and gorgeous depiction of childhood that is impossible not to be charmed by.
Hana (Na-yeon Kim) is caught in the middle of her parent’s bickering, desperately trying to get them to reconnect, and even just sit down to eat together. After a chance meeting with siblings Yoomi (Sia Kim) and Yoojin (Ye-lim Joo), Hana finds the (albeit unconventional) family unit she has been craving.
With fantastic, natural performances from the child actors, The House of Us has a wonderfully endearing quality, and you’ll really believe in the bonds that they form. Ga-eun Yoon seems to have a knack for drawing out incredible performances from the young actors, and their ease in front of the camera is one of the things that makes this film so effortlessly charming. At times you can almost forget that you are watching a film, everything feels so real and so natural, that you could almost believe these are real friends, and real sisters. This isn’t always easy to depict, and the credit goes to the director, the beautiful soft cinematography, and of course the performances from the three young actors, in making this so believable and so authentic.
The House of Us explores the idea that a family can be created as well as born, and the importance of cooking and eating together in creating a family unit. Hana, as the eldest of the trio, takes on the matriarch role, caring for the younger sisters, cooking for them and leading them on various adventures. Through this, she is able to find the confidence to take charge of her own blood family and begin the process of reconciliation between them.
Whilst the film predominantly explores childlike imagination and joy, there are subtle coming-of-age tones as well, particularly with the Hana character. There is a noticeable shift in her maturity as the film progresses, especially when she has to deal with some slightly weightier issues. The film handles issues such as divorce and abandonment expertly, looking at it through the lens of a child, but never talking down to the audience. Its bittersweet ending is perhaps a little rushed and some may find its open endedness frustrating, however in a way it perfectly captures those fleeting childhood friendships, and there’s a moment in particular that will both break your heart, and make it soar.
Playful and childlike, whilst never alienating the adult audience, this is beautiful and subtle filmmaking that thoroughly deserves to be seen by a bigger audience.
Directed by: Ga-eun Yoon
Written by: Ga-eun Yoon
Cast: Na-Yeon Kim, Si-ah Kim, Ye-rim Joo, Ji-ho Ahn