French-Korean writer-director Ounie Lecomte’s debut film A Brand New Life tells the heartbreaking story of Jin Hee, a nine-year-old girl who is abandoned by her father at a local orphanage. Played by the talented child actress Kim Sae Ron, Jin Hee struggles to adjust to her new life and wrestles with feelings of disappointment and rage as she realizes her father, whom she had loved and trusted, has left her for good.
A Brand New Life is an incredibly sincere film – there are no attempts to exaggerate Jin Hee’s tragic situation, and unlike other movies centered around heavy topics, A Brand New Life doesn’t manufacture cliche moments that are meant to jerk tears from the audience. Instead, it tells Jin Hee’s story in an honest manner, without any added drama or overblown emotions. This makes the film all the more powerful and moving, and the film’s authenticity may have to do with Lecomte, who drew on her own experiences growing up as an orphan for this movie. In fact, some of the film’s most moving scenes did feel like they could have only come from someone who had personally experienced such moments herself.
A Brand New Life progresses at a slower pace than the average film in order to capture the details of Jin Hee’s emotional struggles. Usually, I don’t like movies with a slow tempo, but Kim Sae Ron’s outstanding performance paired with Lecomte’s skillful handling of the plot and cinematography make the slow pace agreeable and even welcomed, as it offers an opportunity for the audience to really process and empathize with Jin Hee.
While the film deals with predominantly sad themes, there are certainly moments of humor and hope sprinkled throughout the film, and it is in those scenes that Jin Hee and her fellow orphans’ admirable resilience and courage shine through. Despite their young ages, Jin Hee and the other orphans still manage to muster up the courage to face, accept, and prevail over their harsh, extraordinary realities.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Title: A Brand New Life
Director: Ounie Lecomte
Writers: Ounie Lecomte and Lee Chang Dong
Cast: Kim Sae Ron, Park Do Yeon, Go Ah Sung
Run Time: 1 hr 32 min