On the flight back from Japan I scrolled past the usual blockbusters and settled upon the this Korean film. “Little Forest” is adapted from a Japanese slice of life manga series written and illustrated by Daisuke Igarashi.
The story follows Hye-won, a recent graduate who fails her final teaching examinations in Seoul and returns to her childhood home, in a traditional Korean village.
Hye-won finds solace in the “Little Forest” or the loving home created by her single mother, who is no longer there but has given her a happy childhood. Through the seasons she reflects upon her experiences in big city life that drove her home and navigates through her journey of self-discovery with the help of her childhood friends.
The theme for this movie is nourishment. With her roots in the country, Hye-won is hungry for nature, home-cooked meals, genuine human connection and a slower pace of life. The movie is filled with gorgeous cinematography of country life and delicious Korean dishes from each season, reminding us of life’s simple joys.
There are many contemplative moments about the impact of a hectic life on our psyche. Particularly in cities where we work long hours indoors, eat instant meals and are addicted to our smartphones. I couldn’t help but recognise elements of my own life in it and emphatize.
Without looking through the lens of rose-tinted glasses of what country living could be, we also get scenes of the backbreaking work of a typical farmer and the judgement that comes with being a ‘country bumpkin’. But overall, the director’s message of what we typically view as “an inferior life”, may not actually be so bad after all.
This film is a therapy for the mind and questions what we need in life to be happy. The satisfaction that comes from a home-cooked meal, a walk through nature, a good drinking session with friends, cannot be undervalued.