Endearing tale of life and hope

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 August, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 28 August, 2005, 12:00am

Little Brother is a soppy and melodramatic South Korean film worth watching for its uplifting message and wonderful young cast.

Directed by Im Tae-hyung, the film is based on the real-life story of two brothers. Younger brother Jang Han-ie (Park Ji-bin) is a nine-year-old troublemaker who enjoys playing pranks on his crybaby brother Han-byul (Suh Dae-han), who often complains of feeling sick.

When it is discovered that Han-byul is suffering from a malignant brain tumour, the children find themselves dealing with an issue that is alien to them: death.

Joining Han-byul in the fight to survive is Wook-ie (Chae Woo-hyuk), a fun-loving farmboy whose dream is to become a comedian. Both Wook-ie and Han-byul are cancer victims whose relatives are preparing for the worst. But Han-ie plans to save them.

The story is depicted from the children's point of view - a clever technique that lends the film an innocent and spirited quality, despite its heartbreaking subject.

The surreal scene where Han-ie and Wook-ie fly through the woods with the mysterious Mr Tarzan epitomises the film's spirit, which illustrates the need for fun and hope amid desperate times.

In another touching moment, young cancer patients in a hospital laugh at the jokes and antics of Wook-ie's favourite comedian, Precious Son, who asked by Han-ie to visit the ward. The relieved expression on the parents' faces is a poignant reminder of the emotional pain that parents of cancer victims endure.

Park's performance is both touching and delightful. The endearing actor, who won the Best Child Actor Award at the 2003 SBS Actor's Awards, convincingly delivers a wide range of emotions. Veteran actress Bae Jong-ok also shines as a mother who feels helpless in face of her child's suffering.

Little Brother may not be everyone's cup of tea. But it is a sincere and charming film that shows how courage and laughter can overcome pain and the fear of death.