Wednesday, October 23, 2013

KAFFNY ’13: End of the World (short)

The universe should be a mysterious place for kids, but in a rewarding way.  One middle school-ish boy is encouraged to analyze it through science, while the girl he is fast developing a crush on relates to the cosmos through her family’s apocalyptic Christianity.  They are both charming youngsters, so it is a pity they are stuck in such a too-cool-for-school slam on Evangelicals.  It is exactly what you think, but the co-leads bring energy and credibility to Willem Lee’s short film, End of the World, which screens during the 2013 Korean American Film Festival in New York.

Sokmok Lee wears a suit to school every day, even though it isn’t required.  Science has always been his thing.  Relating to his parents is always difficult, but he had a special relationship with his recently deceased grandmother.  When Eunyi Suk distributes her hand-made religious tracts in school, he most definitely notices.  She would be a cool kid with a rebellious streak, were she not caught up in her parents’ Harold Camping brand of end-of-the-world religion.

Lee gets rather attached to Suk in their brief time together, but she makes it clear they have no future together because the world has no future.  While she maintains outward appearances at school, she informs him her family will soon be leaving, in anticipation of the rapture.

End perfectly captures the crummy feelings of helplessness we all had when our childhood friends were forced to move away due to the arbitrary circumstances of their parents’ lives.  Of course, it was considerably worse when it was a kind of sort of girlfriend.  The performances of Ryan Kim and Stephanie Shen are beyond winning as Lee and Suk, respectively.  Never precious, they are serious young people who command our respect and attention as they develop some genuinely touching screen chemistry together.  Unfortunately, it all comes wrapped in a cheap shot directed at Evangelicals.

End is definitely worth seeing for the assured work of its young co-leads.  Viewers should tune-out the biases and concentrate on them.  Recommended with the given reservations, End of the World screens tomorrow (10/24) as part of KAFFNY’s shorts competition at the Village East Cinemas.