Yong Su and his family have been in the United States for around three years, but still, he doesn't seem to fit in. Bullied and depressed with very little English skills, this teenager can't even count on his home being a safe place. His parents, although time and again remind him that they love him, seem to want nothing more than to push him further into depression. In their eyes, they gave up their lives in Korea to ensure Yong Su would receive the best shot at life. The American dream, the American education, the American life - and they press him hard. So hard, in fact, they are unconsciously pushing him deeper into depression, and as for the depression itself? Definitely not something to talk about in their house - mental illness is considered a weakness, an embarrassment.
Eventually, the film fast forwards a few years, and it seems Yong Su is/has achieved everything his parents wanted. Yet, this still doesn't seem to be enough. At the start of the film, his parents chastise him for not being American enough, which was the whole point of coming to the States. Now they have flipped everything around and blame him for becoming American and forgetting his Korean heritage. Without giving much more away, I will write that "Just a Boy" will probably hit pretty close to home for a lot of people - and not just of Korean descent. It's a story of old generation values and principles Vs. Modern ones. Did I mention it's all pretty darn good? Well, if not, let me just write that it is.
Technically, "Just a Boy" is a gimmick-free, straight-to-the-point story with nothing overly fancy to take away from the message. The camera work is at the perfect level for telling the story, and the focus is centered on the actors themselves. Let me just write that Angela Koh's short film feels real and unscripted - an excellent blend of good writing and good acting. Some movies attempt to make up for shortcomings with fancy camera work, fancy special effects, or outrageous sound effects and scoring - not the case here. Aside from the background score occasionally being a little loud, there's nothing extra needed because "Just a Boy" is easy to fall into.
Parents and their children. The pressure to hand off opportunities and even old-school embarrassment is the story being told here. "Just a Boy" is as effective as it is entertaining. If you're looking for a quick diversion, you really can't go wrong here. Four well-earned stars and two thumbs up. Well done.