Busan 2017 Review: HOME Settles in for Pleasant if Predictable Family Drama
Newcomer Kim Jong-woo's feature is a crowd-pleaser for the right audience.
Busan-set family melodrama Home doesn't stray from stock themes of Korean dramas yet its endearing young cast and genuine feelings make it a pleasant debut from newcomer Kim Jong-woo.
Jun-ho is a middle school student who lives with half-brother Seong-ho and their mother in a low-rent home high up a hill. One morning on the way to school their mother is approached by the wife of Won-jae, the man she had an affair with and who is Seung-ho's father. The women get into a car and just as they drive off they are hit by a truck and both wind up in a coma. The affluent Won-jae takes Seung-ho in after the accident and after a few days allows Jun-ho to live with them and his young daughter. Jun-ho is an ideal older brother to both the young children but not everyone is happy with the unconventional family arrangement.
Kim's film gets the ball rolling with an exceedingly contrived double coma setup and his protagonists are painfully sympathetic, especially the exceedingly good-natured Jun-ho, yet the good-heartedness of his tale doesn't feel as calculated as it might in other hands. The emotion that he weans out of his story gradually warms to the touch and while the younger performers tend towards the saccharine, it's hard to pass judgement on such a cute cast.
Home has a tendency of glossing over the weaknesses of its main characters and props up the unfairness of Jun-ho's situations by tossing in a handful of familiar but thinly drawn villains such as a school bully who takes advantage of him and a cold aunt that wants him out. Then again, it's is designed as a feel good tale and doesn't pretend to paint a realistic picture of a fractured family (plenty of other indies that do pop up in Busan every year).
Young actor Lee Hyo-je, who has been appearing a lot of late, in commercial films such as The Last Princess and Vanishing Time: A Boy Who Returned, plays Jun-ho as someone who is a little too perfect to pass off as a real person, but his sweet charm makes him an appealing lead and easy to root for.
Then there's Heo Joon-seok as the reticent stepfather (who also appears in the Busan title Counting the Stars at Night this year). Combining the selfish aspects of the character with heart buried somewhere deep inside, he ably conveys someone who is far from perfect yet even as he begins to win us over, he still comes off as a person primarily out to protect his own interests.
Kim's pacing is clear and his storytelling remains measured throughout while the film is cleanly shot and edited. A crowd-pleaser for the right audience, Home is a story that doesn't strive for too much and doesn't ask for too much in return.