The Fangirl Verdict

Completely biased reviews and fangirling

Flash Review: Little Forest [Korean Movie]

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I am so pleased with my in-flight pick today, you guys.

Lately, I find myself swopping out my regular drama nightcap (woah, right?!) in favor of the wonderful cooking videos by YouTuber 꿀키honeykki. Not only are her videos super relaxing to unwind to, I just love the focus on food and sound. The sound of ingredients being chopped; the sound of food being cooked; the sound of food being eaten with relish, which is how 꿀키honeykki ends all of her videos. Every night, after watching these videos, I feel so much more attuned to the sounds around me, as I prepare to actually put myself to bed.

This movie is like the almost-perfect marriage between two of my favorite things: the celebration of food that nourishes, and storytelling that feels personal and wholesome. Yes please, and thank you very much.

WHAT IT’S ABOUT

Frustrated and worn out from life in the big city, Hye Won (Kim Tae Ri) returns to the village where she grew up, in order to get away from it all. Back in the country, she finds comfort and healing through farming, food and friends.

WHAT I ENJOYED

1. The portrayal of food

This is hands-down my favorite thing in this movie.

First of all, I love that we get to see the process of how the food is prepared, albeit in highlight form. I kinda-sorta get cooking-cum-eating 꿀키honeykki vibes from the food scenes, and that is a big plus in my books.

Secondly, the dishes are varied in nature, with some that felt quite unusual to me. I mean, pasta pan-fried with home-grown herbs, topped with fresh grated cheese, finished with a literal shower of fresh flowers? Oh my. The taste-buds in my head are going wild just imagining how delicious that must taste.

Third, and most importantly, I love how we get to see the entire process of making food. Food isn’t just something that you purchase at a convenience store; it’s something that you grow with care, patience and joy. You harvest it and celebrate it; the fruit of your labor. As you eat, you are eating of the ground, and it all feels like a circle of life, almost, as you eat of the land, before you sow more into the land. I know, I make it sound kinda hokey, almost, but I promise, it doesn’t feel hokey or try-hard on your screen.

I really liked how this movie pulled everything together via its use of food, and even wove in themes of healing, with its thoughtful voiceovers.

2. The friends

Ryu Joon Yeol (Eee! I have missed seeing this sweet dork on my screen) and Jin Ki Joo play Hye Won’s childhood friends Jae Ha and Eun Sook, and I very much enjoyed watching these three friends spend time together, talking, laughing, cooking and eating. In true long-time bestie fashion, these three do a lot for one another, with a healthy amount of bickering, and a good measure of gruff love.

[SPOILER] I liked how Jae Ha just knew, without Hye Won saying anything, that she’d be nervous and jumpy sleeping alone in the winter, and just brings her a puppy, because he knows that it will help. Hye Won protests vehemently and insists he take the puppy away, but he just walks away with a short little wave. Next thing we see, Hye Won’s got Puppy curled up under her covers, and the two wake up as fresh as two daisies. Aw. [END SPOILER]

Show dabbles a little bit, in a love triangle among the three friends, but Show doesn’t put too much emphasis on it. I found this a refreshing choice. I liked that our story kept Hye Won’s journey as its main arc, and didn’t allow the possibility of romance to drown out everything else.

3. The flashbacks with Mom [VAGUE SPOILERS]

Very quickly into the show, we learn that Hye Won is estranged from her mother (Moon So Ri), and that they are not in touch. It becomes clear that this estranged relationship with her mom is a sore point with Hye Won, and this is one of the areas in Hye Won’s heart that needs healing.

I liked that Show weaves regular flashbacks of young Hye Won with Mom into our story; memories to do with cooking, eating, farming, all come flooding back to Hye Won, and with the wisdom that time and hindsight provide, Hye Won finally begins to come to terms with Mom’s decision to leave.

4. The return to basics [VAGUE/MODERATE SPOILERS]

One of the key ideas in our story, is exploring what is life-giving, versus what is life-depleting. We see how Hye Won is drained out and exhausted by life in the big city, where even the food tastes flat and not quite right. And then we see how much farming the land and cooking whole foods brings her back to life. Sure, she doesn’t fulfill her dream to be a teacher, but importantly, this turn of events doesn’t feel like a cop-out. Rather, through her return to the country, she finally figures out what’s truly important to her, and eventually finds the courage to fully embrace it.

I enjoyed this exploration of what’s truly important in life, and it struck a chord with me, because these days, many of us live in demanding, fast-paced worlds where we often can’t even be sure of how nutritious a food is anymore. Hye Won’s journey felt vicariously refreshing, to me, and I liked that a lot.

WHAT I WOULD’VE LIKED

Generally speaking, I feel like I just wanted more of everything, really.

I wanted expanded scenes of the cooking – and the eating; I wanted more gorgeous scenes of nature. I wanted more stuff to be fleshed out; I wanted expanded scenes of conversations, and flashbacks. I wanted to have a better sense of Hye Won’s relationships with everyone; not just her friends, but her aunt too. I wanted a better sense of the villagers around her, as well as the folks in the town.

Basically, I wanted this to be a drama instead of a movie, heh. Which, given the recent surge in popularity of movies being remade as dramas, might not be impossible?

THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]

I really like the farming analogy that is used in the end of our story.

When Hye Won leaves again for Seoul when winter comes around again, Jae Ha muses that she is probably not leaving for good, but just preparing for permanent planting. We then get an analogy of how onion saplings are moved to better and more fertile soil, once they are mature enough, and thereafter, they grow there permanently.

I thought that was quite perfect, to describe just what Hye Won was doing, in returning to Seoul. She had gone back to settle her loose ends, so that she could return to the country and plant herself permanently, in the soil that she deemed better and more fertile. I liked that a lot.

At the same time, when Hye Won returns to her countryside home, she sees that the door is open, and the drapes are fluttering in the breeze. Mom must have come home. And she moves towards the house with a smile on her face.

It’s a rather abrupt-feeling ending, to be honest. It almost felt like we maybe ran out of screen time and just had to end the story there, kind of. I would’ve loved to have seen Hye Won’s reunion with her mother, after the emotional journey Hye Won went through, to be at a place where she could smile at the thought of Mom’s presence.

But maybe we’ll get to see that if/when the drama version of this story gets made?

THE FINAL VERDICT:

Simple, earthy and wholesome. Just like the doctor ordered.

FINAL GRADE: B+

TRAILER:

MV:

Author: kfangurl

Proud to be a k-fangirl since 2007. Main diet of kdramas with movies and kpop on the side.

14 thoughts on “Flash Review: Little Forest [Korean Movie]

  1. Sounds wonderful and right up my alley. Thank you

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  2. This is an adaptation of a Japanese manga. There’s a Japanese film adaptation in two parts with Hashimoto Ai, if you’re interested.

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    • Oh, I had no idea that this was an adaptation of anything! Thanks for letting me know, junny! You are always so well-informed. 🙂 I will look out for the Japanese film. 🙂

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      • Haha, I watched and wrote about it, that’s all. I hope you enjoy the Japanese film – it is very slice of life and comes in two parts, so summer & autumn in one film, and winter & spring in another. I really liked the film posters.

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        • I poked around your blog to find your post, and the J-movie sounds quite lovely indeed! And, who can say no to more food porn and more gorgeous shots of nature? 😉 Thanks Junny! ❤

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  3. Question: How can you go wrong with Kim Tae-ri? Answer: You can’t. This is going on my short list. Thanks so much for your review!

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  4. This looks interesting. Thanks for sharing.

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  5. kfangurl Unni, if I ask you where to find this movie with eng subs, can you answer? Better if they offer free download option, because I want to watch this with mom, relaxed.
    (NO prob if you can’t, if I’m destined to watch it I’ll be able to find it someday!😝)
    I was actually searching for THIS kind of foodie drama/film. To explain, while the Korean barbecue, kimchi scenes look ABSOLUTELY mouth watering and stuff, “highly savoury and drenched-in-sauce” is not the style we are used to in my mother country.
    E.g.:- Watching Buamdong Revenge Club, me and mom got a craving for Seafood ramen, so next day we went to the market and bought ALL the ingredients and prepared it according to the drama. We even bought squid, which we’ve never prepared at home. We had the ramen for lunch, it was yummy-actually too delicious. It was SO overwhelming mom and I slept after eating it, sorta doped!😁😅 And this dish doesn’t contain an OUNCE of sauce! And in the drama, it was eaten by a SINGLE person, for hangover soup, then she went home and had ANOTHER ramen for BREAKFAST! I’ve NO idea how it was possible.😁
    So yeah, my daily-food type is more along the lines of Korean Temple food and country food- as in this movie (hopefully, according to your review and screencaps!) So neutral, yet SO hearty and earthy.

    BTW, totally out-of-the-topic…but have you watched Miss Granny? I suddenly remembered it out of the blue because it has hearty, pleasant traditional Korean songs- all sung by Shim Eun-kyung’s youthful voice. Korean (non-idol)actors and actresses never fail to surprise me with their multi talents.
    My, where is this conversation directed? I’d rather stop,heh. Good luck!

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    • Hi there Peony! Great to see ya! 🙂

      To answer your question, I did a little bit of digging, and you might be able to watch/download the movie here. I hope you and your mom will enjoy your watch! 🙂 I do think this one is best enjoyed in HD.. the shots of food and of nature are gorgeous. 😍😍

      As for Miss Granny, yes, I did watch it, and I loved it! You’re right, it’s got a hearty and earthy tone that isn’t that different from Little Forest, despite the very different approach and theme. And yes, Shim Eun Kyung really surprised me with her singing! ❤ You can check out my review of Miss Granny here. 🙂

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