LFF REVIEW: “A Jigsaw That Was Always Meant to be Together” – ‘The House of Us’ (2019)

Rating: 4 out of 4.

“A testament to young talent which is only bound to grow with time.”

From South Korean writer/director Gaeun Yoon comes House of Us, a story of three young girls finding solace from the disparities of their home lives. Together they create a bond that cannot be broken, delving into mischief and laughter to hide the inevitable pain they come home to. 

The House of Us revolves primarily around the theme of family: both relative and found. The film’s protagonist, Hana (played by newcomer Nayeon Kim), is determined to bring her family back together despite her parents looming separation. Alternatively, young siblings Yoomi (Siah Kim) and Yoojin (Yerim Joo) want nothing but to be reunited with their parents and remain in the house they have lovingly called home. Together, they find solace in one another and create a new home for themselves, both in life and out of cardboard. 

Yoon wastes no time in showing us the trails faced by Hana, our central protagonist. The film opens with a shouting match between Hana’s parents, who dip in an out of the screen as the frame focuses solely on the ever-despairing reactions of Hana, who is quite literally watching her family fall apart. She fixates on a memory – a family vacation – and is determined to reunite with the happiness that the past brought her. This singular long take is one of true brilliance, with the young Kim’s fleeting feelings being told only through glances, building an exceptionally sturdy foundation for the rest of the film to follow. And as the glue of the film, Kim absolutely shines.

Quite frankly, each of the performances from the three leads are phenomenal. The older of the girls, Hana and Yoomi, embrace the emotional maturity of the adults that disregard their feelings, keeping it weighted on their shoulders until the time comes for a cathartic release in a breath-taking climax. On the flipside, Yoojin – the youngest of the trio – acts as the film’s comic relief. Whether it be through her delicate chatter or devilish ways, it is hard not to fall in love with Yoojin, who lights up the screen with every appearance. Though when placed on screen with her two older counterparts, it is even harder. The chemistry between the trio is nothing but exquisite, and a testament to their young talent which is only bound to grow with time.

Lee cannot be faulted for her script and her direction. She has crafted a film full to the brim of love and turmoil, innocence and maturity. She allows each character to be authentically themselves – whether it be Hana’s willingness to help, Yoomi’s fear and hesitance, and Yoojin’s playfulness, we fall for each character both individually and together. They are a jigsaw that was always meant to be together, and it is truly beautiful. 

The House of Us is a story of holding on and letting go but finding the new along the way. Despite the losses they face, Hana, Yoomi and Yoojin find each other and create a bond that is unbreakable. No matter what happens after the summer, they have one another and the house that they built together. And in that moment, that is all that matters.

Dir: Gaeun Yoon

Cast: Nayeon Kim, Siah Kim, Yerim Joo

Release Date: 5th October 2019