A pretty animated sequence opens up "Making Family" and explains the childish logic by which Tae-bong (played by Moon Mason) understands how he was created- via sperm donation. Tae-bong is not to be underestimated. The adorable ragamuffin has a highly adapatable scheme by which he plans to discover the identify of his birth father Julien (played by Aarif Rahman). Meanwhile, Tae-bong's mother Mi-yeon (played Kim Ha-neul), struggles to find her lost son.
"Making Family" is at its best when Tae-bong is in focus. A test tube baby trying to make sense of his own existence is legitimately excellent fodder for a family film. We can see Tae-bong's unimpeachable optimism even in the face of increasingly ludicrous setbacks. Tae-bong is on a big adventure, while Mi-yeon is terrified that her son is in danger and Julien is trying to figure out why some weird Korean kid is chasing him all over China.
Then there's the backstory. Julien's decision to pursue a career in the art world has strained his family relationships. Apparently Julien comes from a fairly wealthy family. The circumstances that led to Julien becoming a sperm donor in the first place were amazing convoluted and goofy. The tiny car and the goofy hat in the movie's American scenes were brilliant. Really, the notion of sperm donors being immature college idiots is so on-point, because who else would agree to do it?
But rather than continue this contrast of Tae-bong's wonder at the miracle of life contrasted with absurdist reality, "Making Family" takes a trip to the Chinese countryside. In the context of the plot this trip makes sense, although mostly this is just pretty Chinese scenery for the sake of pretty Chinese scenery. But what "Making Family" gains in pretty visuals it easily loses in storytelling heft, since most of the conflict disappears once Julien and Mi-yeon have to spend time hanging out with Tae-bong.
The wish fulfillment elements are also a tad strong. We never get to the point where Tae-bong finally sinkingly realizes that his fantasy isn't going to come true. To the contrary, Mi-yeon and Julien end up indulging Tae-bong a lot more than they should. While Moon Mason's performance in the beginning of "Making Family" is very good, it becomes very obvious as time goes on that director Jo Jin-mo isn't giving him any direction more complicated than just act really excited and happy.
I can't say I'm too surprised by this. "Making Family" was obviously conceived as an international romantic comedy vehicle between Kim Ha-neul and Aarif Rahman rather than as a coming-of-age narrative that would be a much better fit for the premise. All the same, I feel like the movie gives us the bait-and-switch. Consider how the climax takes place in a courtroom, against a villain with maybe a couple of lines whose existence was only briefly alluded to when we were introduced to Julien. Honestly I didn't really get the plagiarism subplot in general. Julien's tension with his family over his career was good enough conflict on its own.
Review by William Schwartz
Available on DVD from YESASIA
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] "Making Family""
by HanCinema is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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