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Review: 'Treeless Mountain'

Intimate drama about two young sisters left with an aunt captures the frights and resilience of childhood.

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Like "Wendy and Lucy," "Treeless Mountain" is one of those artfully smallscale movies in which nothing happens and everything happens. It's about two young girls, 7-year-old Jin (Hee Yeon Kim) and her younger sister Bin. (Song Hee Kim), who are left by their distraught mother (Soo Ah Lee) in the care of their aunt (Mi Hyang Kim) while she attempts to reconcile with her errant husband. The mother gives the girls a piggy bank and tells them that for each good deed they perform for Big Aunt, as she is called, a coin will be deposited. When the bank is filled, she promises to return.

The writer-director So Yong Kim was born in South Korea and immigrated to America when she was 12. Parts of this film, her second, are somewhat autobiographical. In any case, it has an intensely personal feel. Kim films the two children very close in, and although at times this approach is claustrophobia-inducing, her instincts are mostly right. The girls, who have never acted before, have marvelous faces and an ineffable ease in front of the camera. These are two of the best child performances I have ever seen (credit for which, especially given their ages, must largely go to Kim).

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