As an adult with the ability to travel long distances across your country or even outside it, and with Internet access to connect you with information theoretically anywhere and anytime, the world is pretty impossibly big. For kids it's a different matter. Just getting across town without adult supervision is a pretty huge challenge- especially when that town is Seoul. So it is for older sister Ji-ho (played by Park Ha-young) and younger brother Seon-ho (played by Goo Seung-hyun). Especially since they inevitably get lost.
"Around The World" is fully ensconced in their limited perspective- make no mistake, this is no movie about what adults imagine kids are like. Ji-ho may love her brother, but finds the task of taking care of him to be frequently annoying. Mostly this is because Ji-ho, being a child herself, gets distracted and frequently forgets to make sure that Seon-ho is with her at all times. Also not helping matters is the fact that she's the only girl in her circle of..."friends". Yes, the quotation marks are necessary, since Ji-ho only particularly likes one of them.
On their odyssey across Seoul Ji-ho and Seun-ho have to deal with money trouble, constant discomfort and even genuine danger from adults. As kids, they're in a very vulnerable position, and it's a part of childhood more nostalgic adult stories tend to gloss over. For Ji-ho and Seun-ho, losing their mother and possibly their father isn't a character-building experience. It's a struggle they have to overcome armed with little more than their mutual love and sincerity.
As a road trip movie some might find "Around The World" a little odd, because it eschews a lot of the funner aspects of the drama for the sake of emphasizing that Ji-ho and Seun-ho have a very clearly defined goal and at all points, Ji-ho's motivation is simply to get herself and her brother to the endpoint as quickly as possible. Everything else is just an unwanted distraction, even if frequently they are funny ones.
And that's where "Around The World" really shines- it has sheer, incredible heart as a family film. The schemes Ji-ho and Seun-ho come up with to get out of each subsequent mess are exactly the kind of low-tech solutions a kid would come up with. The adults too, even if they're not in full focus, come off as completely realized characters whose attitudes are highly colored by the fact that they know they're talking to children, and adults act differently with children than they do to each other, or even when they're alone.
The only sour point in my mind is a somewhat questionable scene involving an indigent horde rush. But by and large "Around The World" is a lovely movie that places life in a kid's perspective without talking down to them or getting overly sentimental. It's in good genre company with last year's "A Perfect Way to Steal a Dog". While "Around The World" lacks the narrative power of that film, it definitely has the same spirited emotional resonance, and for that reason is well worth watching.
Review by William Schwartz
Staff writer. Has been writing articles for HanCinema since 2012, having lived in South Korea since 2011. Started out in Gyeongju, then to Daegu, then to Ansan, then to Yeongju, then to Seoul, lived on the road for HanCinema's travel diaries series in the summer of 2016, and is currently settled in Anyang. Has good tips for utilizing South Korea's public bus system. William Schwartz can be contacted via email@example.com.
"[HanCinema's Film Review] "Around The World""
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