Dir/scr. Noh Dong-seok. S Kor. 2006. 93mins.
Pursuing similar themes to those covered in his debutfeature Generation, which screened acouple of years ago in Pusan, Noh Dong-seok's Boys OfTomorrow again takes up the cause of lost youth whose hopes and dreams aretrampled by the slum misery into which they are born.
Shot on HD with a camera deployedin almost documentary fashion, this tale of a dysfunctional family cheated outof everything they ever had focuses mostly on two brothers, both still in theirteens and each struggling in his own way.
Noh Dong-seok'sdownbeat approach, slightly alleviated by an ending which leaves a glimmer ofhope for one of the main protagonists, will be appreciated by festivals and sympatheticarthouse circuits. But his jerky, and at timesmuddled, narrative will make it hard for BoysOf Tomorrowto enjoy much commercial reach.
Kisoo (Kim Byeong-seok), theolder of the two brothers, lives in a basement studio and works as driver,hoping one day to become a full-time drummer. But every time his goal seems tobe within reach, he is dragged back by his family, which has no one else tocare for it.
There is his mother, areligious nut whose husband abandoned her years ago; his younger brother Jongdae (Yu A-in) who is always in trouble and eager to gethis hands on a gun, which would give him authority on the streets; and hisolder brother, a gambling bum whose hooker wife has run away and left dad with Johan,a baby boy, who he in turn leaves with Kisoo.
Closest to Jongdae, and feeling guilty for an early accident in whichhis sibling lost a testicle, Kisoo tries to make himgo straight but to no avail. Instead Jongdae, who issupposed to wash cars for a living, sees all the rich petty criminals aroundhim and cannot help but feel tempted to want some of the same for himself. 'Workdoesn't get you anywhere' he screams at Kisoobefore running away.
When Jongdae,despite Kisoo's warnings, finds employment with MrKim (Choi Jae-sung), a smalltime pimp, it is only a matter of time before trouble follows.Jongdae falls for one of the younger prostitutes andattacks a client when she is assaulted, incurring the wrath of his boss. The finalbloodbath seals any chance Kisoo might have had ofextracting himself from the vicious circle in which he is caught.
Told in retrospect by anolder Jongdae, the story manages to pack in plenty ofpain and frustration. The plot may advance in an erratic mixture of hesitancyand leaps and bounds, but importantly manages to maintain its prevailing moodof darkness and oppression throughout.
All the locations have thedisheartening look of places one would never dare visit, in particular theseedy bordello whose hookers are revealed as shockingly youthful innocents oncetheir make-up and working garb are removed.
The determination of Kim Byeong-seok, as the older brother, to do everything in hispower to prevent his younger brother from following the wrong path, iseffectively and sharply contrasted with Yu A-in'srebellious pout as Jongdae, who seems destined toslip from one disaster to the next. Their separation in the final reel isparticularly moving.
Meanwhile Choi Jae-sung, as Mr Kim, is alloily charm and has the appeal of a deadly cobra. The rest of the cast acquits themselvesin exemplary fashion.
Photography owes much to gritty documentary footage taken on the raw, while theediting respects atmosphere much more than any sense of continuity.
Generation Blue Films