While a little over-long, it’s hard not to be moved by Kim Bo-ra’s directorial debut…
Eun-hee (Park Ji-hoo) has no control of her life. Her father berates her, her brother beats her, even her mother tells her to go to the doctor on her own when she discovers a lump on her neck. The Middle School student has no way of changing her life, but still, she powers through, trying to make the best of a bad situation. It’s only when Young-ji (Kim Sae-byuk) becomes her new Mandarin tutor that things start to look up, as it seems like Eun-hee has finally found someone who can understand her plight.
Kim Bo-ra’s directorial debut is a brutal, heart-wrenching affair that sees its protagonist suffer many hardships. House of Hummingbird is a coming-of-age story that doesn’t pull any of its punches, instead of leaving the audience with a sense of sorrow as Eun-hee struggles to navigate the hardships that her life throws her way. While it’s not all doom and gloom, it’s hard not to see Eun-hee’s story as tragic, as if she’s on a losing streak and all her cards have been dealt for her. This feeling comes to a head when the narrative features the tragic collapse of Seongsu Bridge, a historical event that threatens to turn Eun-hee’s life upside down.
Park Ji-hoo is a powerhouse in the role of Eun-hee, a master of her emotions who lends her character an air of vulnerability that immediately compels the audience to empathise with her. She is certainly a star to watch, given her impressive turn as this damaged teen. Director Kim, meanwhile, tackles the notion of Eun-hee’s sexuality in a fascinating manner here, as she provides the girl with both a male and female love interest as the story progresses. Exploring this aspect of her lead character in such a non-invasive manner is certainly a joy to see, as Eun-hee can come to terms with her feelings in her own time, and it is depicted as naturally as it should be.
House of Hummingbird feels a little over-long mainly because its narrative has little-to-no direction, and instead favours a slow, methodical examination of Eun-hee’s day-to-day life. Perhaps it is because we are experiencing the girl’s story through her eyes that the tale simply flows without a set path ahead of it. After all, if Eun-hee is unaware of what to make of her life, and what is to come, what should we, as viewers, really expect? This quiet, gentle storytelling does dim the story’s impact somewhat as a result, but, even so, it is hard not to be moved by Eun-hee’s story.