Seon-hwa is a quirky and slightly nerdy girl, part of an equally quirky family, who attends an all-girl high school. One day, as she is helping her best friend prepare for an audition of "Romeo and Juliet", she is spotted by the director, Soo-yeon, and ends up with the part of Juliet. Soon after that, she meets Ha-nam, a senior student who plays Romeo and has already won awards for her theatrical performances and is currently the object of yearning for almost every girl in the school. Soon, Seon-hwa finds herself attracted to the older girl and the feelings seem to be mutual. This however, causes a number of unexpected events, particularly through Soo-yeon's jealousy.
Ahn Jeong-min, in his debut, directs and pens a coming-of-age film whose style is much reminiscent of Japanese indie films. In that fashion, the music is scarce, the pace relatively slow, the story uneventful for its most part, and the characters somewhat eccentric. This mixture, however, ends up being particularly entertaining, as it also features the concept of teenage lesbian love in the school environment, which allows Ahn Jeong-min to put additional depth to the story. This depth comes from a number of side stories, like the one with Seon-hwa's sister. I have to admit, though, that I would like to see more of this arc.
Furthermore, the character's quirkiness, particularly of Seon-hwa's and her friends, induces the film with a comic sense that benefits the general sense emitted, even more. The scene where the three girls are praying to the gods asking for bigger boobs is a distinct sample of this tendency. The part regarding the theatre play actually has a secondary role in the film, although the very meaningful conclusion takes place during the premiere. Overall, Ahn Jeong-min retains a very sensitive visage towards a theme that could easily become crude, and his approach is one of the highlights of the film, as he seems to understand his subject completely, despite him being of the opposite genre.
Roh Jeong-eui as Seon-hwa is great in a role that has her experience first love, and a number of other issues, with courage and a sense of humor that makes her completely adorable inside her eccentricity. Jo Soo-hyang as Soo-hyeon is quite good in presenting a boiling jealousy that eventually erupts, although in subtle and laconic fashion. Kwon Nara as Ha-nam provides a great apple of discord, appearing detached but showing her true nature in close quarters. Furthermore, the chemistry of the cast works extremely well, with the combination of very talkative and extrovert characters on the one hand, and quite laconic and introvert on the other.
"Fantasy of the Girls" is an impressive debut, from a director who is not afraid to take chances and is rewarded for his attitude. Fans of Japanese indie will definitely love this one.
Review by Panos Kotzathanasis
Panos Kotzathanasis is a film critic and reviewer specialising in East Asian Cinema. He is the founder of Asian Film Vault, administrator of Asian Movie Pulse and also writes for Taste of Cinema, Eastern Kicks, China Policy Institute and Filmboy. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Panos Kotzathanasis can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[Guest Film Review] "Fantasy of the Girls" - New York Asian Film Festival"
by HanCinema is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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