February 11, 2012

Sunny: Girls Just Wanna Continue Having Fun When They're Older

I knew within about three minutes that I was going to love Kang Hyeong-Cheol's Sunny, an adroitly crafted chick flick about a girl gang in high school that slowly reunites 25 years later after Na-mi (Yu Ho-jeong/Sim Eun-kyeong), the artsy one, discovers the group's tough leader Chun-hwa (Jin Hee-kyung/Kang So-ra) is dying of cancer in the same hospital at which Na-mi's soap-opera-devoted mother (Kim Hye-ok) is a patient. This chance encounter has a domino effect, as Na-mi begins tracking down the other five girlfriends, all of whom now lead frustrated lives though each for quite different reasons.

Jin-hee (Hong Jin-hee/Park Jin-hoo) has gone from potty-mouthed punk to rich-but-dissatisfied wife, Bok-hee (Kim Seon-kyeong/Kim Bo-mi) has fallen from aspiring beauty queen to prostitute, Jang-mi (Go Su-hee/Kim Min-yeong) has devolved from class clown to second-rate insurance agent... As each new friend re-enters the picture, new memories surface -- the turf rivalry with a girl gang called Generations, the teenage crush on dreamy Joon-ho (Kim Si-hoo), the life-changing day when the prettiest one (Yoon Jeong/Min-Hyo-rin) gets cut in the face by a glue-sniffer.

The performances are of the hammier variety: The cast wails when asked to cry and makes their eyes pop when a raised eyebrow would suffice. But the broad style never gets in the way of the story or prevents the flow of tears. You'd have to be one tough cookie not to soften up as Sunny flashes back and forth between the innocence of youth and what might be best referred to as the resignation of middle age. Corny and sentimental as it is, Sunny nonetheless acts as a rallying cry to re-engage with your life, to never relinquish your dreams and to reclaim your rightful place as the protagonist in your own story.

I think one of the reasons Sunny is so effective is that it understands how strongly we identify with our younger selves. "We are always the same age inside," Gertrude Stein once quipped. And she's right. Painfully so. Exquisitely so. For though the body may tire, and disappointments may mount, the inner adolescent -- ever ready for discovery -- remains intact and little changed. Step outside your own petty grievances. Look around you with fresh eyes. It's never to late for your old self to rejuvenate or your young self to be reborn.

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