When loving but emotionally damaged ‘Mom’ packs them off to live with their callous, self-serving aunt, the two girls find themselves in a dire predicament. Deprived of parental affection and behavioural boundaries, they’re left largely to their own devices (masterminding a miniature barbecued grasshopper business, of course) as their aunt drinks away her meagre income, showing little interest in the emotional needs of her surrogate brood. But matters improve when they’re marched off to their grandparents’ farm and finally locate a kindred spirit in their sagacious Grandmother, whose inconspicuous fondness for the pair comes across as a defiant act of cross-generational empowerment.
Via the disconcertingly unaffected performances of the two pint-sized leads, the film subtly and credibly charts the ways young children cultivate a sense of family, friendship, economy, age and geography through physical interactions with people and surroundings. Conversely, Kim’s film also offers a stark analysis of the human potential for random cruelty that recalls nothing less than Bresson’s ‘Mouchette’, albeit with a denouement that holds a glimmer of optimism for the future.