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The World of Us

Movie review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
The World of Us Movie Poster Image
Gentle Korean friendship story doesn't offer any answers.
  • NR
  • 2016
  • 95 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Friendship is complicated, and in the school environment it's also very political. Asks open-ended questions about what friendship is and how you be a friend to someone else. Explores without directly answering questions about the truth, when or whether to tell the truth, why it's hard to demand that others tell the truth, and when is telling the truth harmful?

Positive Role Models & Representations

Sun is a good kid who helps her family, takes good care of younger brother. She mostly does well in school but is struggling socially; she's a bit of an outcast for reasons hard to understand. Jia isn't much of a role model: She shoplifts, uses extortion to force Sun to accept what she stole as a gift, eventually shuns Sun as Jia falls in with "mean girls" at school. Sun's mom is loving, hard-working. Her father works long hours but drinks heavily; his relationship with the family is pretty strained.

Violence

Sun's little brother often fights with another boy. Most of it's off-camera, but one brief fight shows shoving; sounds of slapping are heard off-camera. He's often seen with bruises and wearing a bandage; one or two non-gory cuts are shown. A fight between big kids shows pulling hair, shoving, scratches; bruises and bandages afterward. A glass bottle breaks, a kid cuts a hand on it. The injury's not shown but the kid cries in pain and frustration.

Sex
Language

Once each: "crap," "dang." Something "sucks." Some name-calling like "loser."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Several mentions that Sun's dad drinks too much; he's shown with bottles of liquor or drinking after work. Once Sun has to go find him and help him home because he's too drunk to make it on his own. Jia writes on the blackboard at school that Sun's father is an alcoholic.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The World of Us is a Korean movie with English subtitles about how the friendship between two fourth-graders starts and changes over time. There are a couple of brief scenes of kids fighting; non-gory cuts are shown along with bruises and bandages. Sun's father is an alcoholic who's emotionally distant. The family deals with a grandfather whose health is deteriorating in a hospital and who eventually dies; no strong emotions are shown. Although there's little content of concern, and the main characters are children, kids under 10 may find their attention wandering, because the exploration of a friendship is done from a mature point of view, has lots of subtle nuances, and requires that you understand as much about what's not said as about what's actually said out loud. Some mild language: "crap," "dang," "sucks."

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What's the story?

In THE WORLD OF US, fourth-grader Sun (Soo-in Choi) doesn't have any friends at school. No one seems to like her, and a trio of girls often say downright mean things to her. Over a school holiday, Sun meets Jia (Hye-in Seol), a transfer student who will be in Sun's class when school resumes. Sun and Jia quickly become friends, and even get to spend a week together while Jia's parents are away. But things change when classes resume, and as Jia falls in with the mean girls, she starts to pull away from Sun. Will they ever be friends again?

Is it any good?

This quiet, thoughtful debut from Korean writer-director Ga-eun Yoon is a bittersweet, mature look at friendship that doesn't provide answers but invites viewers to think a lot about friendship. The World of Us is very complicated and hard to understand. What is friendship? How do you make friends? What makes a good friend? Yoon very gently asks us to examine these complicated questions through simple but elegant storytelling and the remarkable performances she gets from her young actors.

But as much of the story is told by what's not said, or what's not seen, as it is by what the characters do say. A lot of information is conveyed in quiet, in-between moments, and by reaction shots and looks exchanged between characters. Even though there's very little content of concern for big kids and up, the high degree of subtlety, advanced and quick reading skills needed for the subtitles, and open ending with no conclusion make it best for tweens and up.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how The World of Us shows friendship. Would you like to be friends with Sun or Jia? Why or why not?

  • Have any of your friendships changed? What was different? Why do you think it changed?

  • Have other kids ever treated you the way Sun's classmates treat her? Have you ever treated anyone that way? How does watching Sun's story make you think about how to treat other people?

Movie details

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