Written by: Rowena Pellazar
It contains spoiler content. Please, read at your own risk.
If there’s one thing this global pandemic has taught us, it’s the importance of being as self-sufficient as possible, especially when it comes to putting food on the table.
This lock down created a pool of experts amongst us, becoming bakers, chefs, and urban farmers overnight. If you’re one of them, then this movie is definitely a must-watch.
A hungry soul, this is the starting point of the 2018 South Korean film, Little Forest, directed by Yim Soon Rye and based on a manga series of the same name by Daisuke Igarashi which was first published in 2002.
After failing to pass the national qualification exam to become a teacher, Hye Won (Kim Tae Ri) resigns from her part-time job in Seoul to return to the small village where she was raised.
Unbeknownst to her boyfriend, who managed to do well in the exam, she tried to escape her harsh city life indefinitely. In the middle of the night, her hungry soul and growling stomach pushed her to make something out of her almost empty cupboard.
The story unfolds into a dreamy farm to table movement kind of vibe. Peeling layers of her emotions; Hye Won was welcomed by her friends, rekindling the friendship with her two best friends; Jae Ha (Ryu Jun Yeol) and Eun Sook (Jin Ki Joo).
Retracing her childhood is not through the usual flashbacks but through recipes, she memorized from her mom’s tutelage. And so it revealed the love-hate she bore for her mother when she left her without a trace.
Escape was their common ground, and so with angst in her heart, she fought her way to the city – working odd jobs, studying competitively. Though she found time to establish a romantic relationship, she catches herself always hungry with real food; something she can easily make from her kitchen with the bounty of her farm’s yield.
With the philosophy of growing locally and sustainably, the movie shows the simplicity of farm life by supporting the local economy and building a sense of community. If to grow up on a farm is your pastoral dream, this movie has all the pertinent scenes that you can imagine.
This is a glimpse at what this alternate life might have been like if you are in rural Korea. Capturing the four seasons of abundant harvest, Yim Soon Rye intertwined the lead’s anecdotes with cooking techniques. How can rice wine making, noodles topped with edible flowers, and crème brulee be used creatively to dispel yearning for answers in our life’s biggest question – what is your purpose.
Romance is slightly brushed, drawing possibilities of friends turning to lovers, almost forming a triangle, but not quite. Yim Soon Rye is smart enough not to complicate the plot. Still, the beauty of friendship is shown in between bites of farm-grown apples that survived a storm and digging soil for the prized onions.
Jae Ha’s consistent affection for Hye Won is not just because he is a caring friend but because he knows too well that crossroad. He was just decisive enough to walk out from his city life at an early stage of exhaustion, and find a budding career in being a farmer. He is sharing his thoughts but not pushing his agenda; he knows that Hye Won will find her way home, one way or the other, this time not just for a season.
“When things are hard, remember the scent of the sun, wind, and rain,” wrote Hye-won’s mother. I like how her absence in her life is actually when she filled her void. I guess a mother will never stop being a mother just because she is gone physically, memories are stronger than anything.
Hye Won further learns that her mother is not teaching her life skills through cooking. She is teaching her to know her way in a forest called life to grow her roots and bloom where she is planted.
So, my take on this movie to be part of your self-sufficiency starter pack? 100%! Being stuck at home with nowhere to go is the perfect time to learn a new skill.
Little Forest will increase your likelihood to be an expert – you can choose from urban farming, cooking, baking, and even wine-making. The picturesque, several guides through scenes that walk the audience on how to do something step-by-step are enough to support comprehension.
The movie is definitely a must-watch with recipes perfected by emotional tutorial unveiled through beautiful storytelling.