There’s quiet integrity in “Treeless Mountain,” SAIC alum So Yong Kim’s story of two young South Korean sisters, aged five and six. As with her teen protagonist’s in the dour, damp “In Between Days,” (2006) she’s remarkably observant of her two child actors, Hee-yeon Kim and Mi-hyang Kim. But loosed from the teen mopiness of her Toronto-set debut, and working in a language she doesn’t fully speak, Kim elicits performances I haven’t seen the likes of since “Ponette”: these children are ably cast and well-led as the neglected children of a single mother who are left behind with their irresponsible “Big Aunt,” a lousy drunk. Their innate resilience in the brisk wind of fresh adversity resembles what Kelly Reichardt captured in “Wendy and Lucy,” but with much younger faces: we don’t know not to go on. We go on. This is a deeply emotional gem, quietly sweeping. Kim’s gaze does not judge, but observes tenaciously. 89m. (Ray Pride)
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His multimedia history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” will be published later this year.