September 11, 2013

Lump of Sugar: A Girl, a Horse, and a Box of Tissues

Lump of Sugar? More like a big old lump of mucous, I say because writer-director Lee Hwan-kyung's gag-inducing, saccharine movie about a bratty jockey (Lim Su-jeong), her masochistic horse and an alcoholic mentor (Yu Oh-seong) has much more to with sentimentality than it does with sweetness. Get a load of this horseshit: After her mother dies in a horseback riding accident, a young girl is rescued from a wintry death by a conscientious mare named The General. When said horse dies birthing a foal, the now-adolescent girl and the newborn pony bond as one orphan to another. Human dad will have none of that: He sells the young horse to the Chinese. (Horse dad is nowhere to be seen.)

While both horse and young woman search for each other high and low, each must face his/her own trials before they're reunited to discover a shared destiny on the racetrack. For her, that means suffering the indigities that come with being a second-rate female jockey-in-training. For him, that means getting branded in the ass by a clownish street barker who also makes him wear silly outfits. To be honest, the horse's life looks markedly worse than that of the girl. Sadly, the colt's future will end up a lot less glamorous too. For starters, the human half of this inseparable duo hardly treats the equine half with love and respect when they're reunited. Instead she spends many a race beating the hell out of him before she realizes that positive reinforcement may get her further than the whip. For enders, there's the matter of his recurring nose bleeds and a collapsed lung that can cause some issues when you're trying to win the race of your life. Or her life. And his death.

It's weird to think Lim had the lead role in Park Chan-wook's I'm a Cyborg, But That's Okay the same year as Lump of Sugar and Jeon Woochi a few years later. From Lump of Sugar, you'd assume she'd be impossible to like but the truth is you'd be dead wrong.

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