Seen in Jeonju

Leafie: A Hen Into the Wild (2011)

28th September 2011

posterI wrote the following review for the October issue of Asiana Entertainment and, as the issue was recently published, I am able to upload it here. I will preface it by saying I did not exaggerate… Leafie was a very pleasant surprise and currently stands out in a year of some excellent films such as Sunny and Late Blossoms (I had not seen Silenced at the time of this writing and I am very much expecting the release of The Client this week. The following is a slightly modified version of what I had written for the magazine article:  When I was first asked to review director Oh Seong-gyun’s debut, the animated film Leafie: A Hen Into the Wild, it was with some trepidation that I accepted. As it was an animation, I felt certain that it was going to be childish and it was with some embarrassment that I bought tickets for myself and two friends. Even though I review many older animated films, I would rather watch them at home where I will not be embarrassed… Anyway, we went into the theater expecting to have to endure 93 minutes of nonsense. We left the theater stunned and almost speechless. When we could speak again, we unanimously agreed that this was not only the best animated film we had ever seen, but it was also the best movie we had seen so far this year!

 I hardly know where to begin describing this impressive film which was based on a best-selling children’s story by Hwang Seon-mi. I think the first thing that stood out for me was the backgrounds. There is such an amazing amount of detail in the scenery that each frame is a feast for the eyes. Such care was given to the art in the background that you can easily identify the types of flowers, trees and insects they are meant to be. You can almost feel the breeze or smell the outdoors as you are looking at parts of this film.

The characters too, are lifelike and memorable. The movie focuses on Leafie, a hen who has managed to escape the horrible conditions of an egg production line. After surviving a harrowing encounter with a one-eyed weasel and being rejected by the barnyard animals where she grew up, Leafie is free to wander where she will. Her cheerful nature, naïve character and eagerness to make friends quickly win her a place in the hearts of viewers. Among her friends are a helpful, outgoing but somewhat meddlesome otter and a brave, regal and handsome duck nicknamed ‘Wanderer.’  The enemies she made are the overly proud ornamental hens of the farmyard and the previously mentioned weasel who would gladly make a meal of the vulnerable hen in the wild.

Through a tragic series of events, Leafie becomes the guardian of a duck egg and, eventually, a duckling.  The lifestyle of a chicken is very different from that of a duck, but Leafie was willing to learn and make the sacrifices she needed in order to ensure the happiness of her son. The fact that a hen cannot swim or fly does not stop Leafie and her child although the local waterfowl definitely think the situation odd and in some cases are quite unkind to the pair. However, this film is not a rehash of the fable of The Ugly Duckling. This is a warm and surprisingly realistic tale where the themes of love and sacrifice frequently come into play.

The realism of the film manifests itself in the laws of nature and the rules of predator and prey. This film is not akin to Madagascar or Lion King where the big cats do not hunt and eat the other animals. Instead, it is more like the beloved animated classics like Bambi and Watership Downs where death is not sugarcoated. It is a real threat and plays an important role in the film. In this respect, it is perhaps best that younger viewers see this movie with a parent.

This truly impressive and beautiful movie is destined to be a classic. Plans are already in the works to open this film internationally so a much wider audience will be able to see and enjoy it. Do yourself a favor and watch this film the first chance you get. No matter what your age, you are sure to love it.

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