A 16-year-old girl (Han Yeo-reum) has been raised by an old man (Jeon Seong-hwang) since she was very young. The two of them live on a boat, which they hire out to fishermen. They plan to marry when she's 17. A young fisherman visits their boat, and catches her eye, threatening to change their lives.

Hwal is a wonderful piece of film-making. It's simple, thoughtful, perfectly focussed, and a delight to watch from start to finish. The plot is minimal, but not lacking. There's very little dialogue, but the acting and beautiful soundtrack mean there's no void.

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A couple of early scenes suffer slightly from obvious exposition and overacting from a minor character. In another film they'd pass without notice, but in a film of such high quality as Hwal, they're a shame. Everything else is note perfect.

The central performances from Han Yeo-reum and Jeon Seong-hwang are stunning, and are imbued with the perfect balance of affection, anger, jealousy, humour, love and spite. The subject matter of a very large age gap, whilst not especially controversial, could sit uneasily with some. However, the story is told without pandering to potential hysteria, the audience is trusted, and the end result is a beautiful film.

The titular bow makes its appearance when used to threaten violence, play music, or in fortune telling, but it always supports the performances, rather than being an obvious metaphor, or worse still a flag to the audience as to what's going on. In lesser hands, the symbolism would be cheesy; here it's spot on.

No review can do Hwal justice. Watch it and love it.

Reviewed on: 04 Sep 2007
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A young girl has been raised by an old man but now she is nearing 17 will a chance encounter with a fisherman change their lives forever?
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Director: Kim Ki-duk

Writer: Kim Ki-duk

Starring: Han Yeo-reum, Jeon Seong-hwang, Seo Si-jeok

Year: 2005

Runtime: 90 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: South Korea


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