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Little Forest

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Kim Tae-ri

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a little forest

When You Need A Breath Of Country Air: Reasons To Watch

When You Need A Breath Of Country Air: Reasons To Watch "Little Forest"

Following an enigmatic female lead, “ Little Forest ” is a quiet, contemplative movie featuring excellent performances and beautiful cinematography. Hye Won (played by the lovely Kim Tae Ri ) moves back home to the country after failing a teaching exam and questioning her motivations to stay in Seoul. Hye Won is in her element digging in the dirt — “I’m a product of the land and air here” — or kneading dough, and it’s her return to her roots that makes “Little Forest” a wonderful movie about self-identity, building from the ground up and coming home.

Not a lot happens in “Little Forest”; it’s not action packed, and if you’re looking for three-act structure — beginning, middle and end — or maybe a bit of a plot… it’s not here, but what we do get is so much better. The movie is broken up into four separate parts that display the highs and lows of living in the country during every season. Storms ruin the crops, sometimes the tomato harvest isn’t great. There’s no real drama. Instead, we’re invited into Hye Won’s monologue, unceremonious and like a diary in style.

a little forest

Kim Tae Ri ’s delivery is captivating. Her character doesn’t traverse a great deal of different emotions, but her performance is subtle, quiet, and intimate; besides a few ensemble scenes, this movie is essentially a one-man show, and Kim Tae Ri delivers, drawing the viewer in and keeping our attention throughout. Her character is likable in a very easygoing, girl-next-door sort of way. She’s someone you could sit in comfortable silence with, and in many scenes, we do.

When the few colorful characters aren’t offering philosophies of the simple life, Hye Won is offering up farming life hacks; what “Moby Dick” is for whaling, “Little Forest” is for humble farming. Interested in growing your own tomatoes, onions, or potatoes? Forget asking Google, watch “Little Forest”; it’s much more aesthetically pleasing. We’re also able to gain some insight into Hye Won’s character through her vast knowledge of country life and seeing it juxtaposed with her former city life, shown in flashbacks. In the city, she was forced to eat convenience store food and was under-appreciated by her boyfriend when she put in extra effort to make him lunch. Back in the present, she is clearly in her element taste-testing tomatoes like they’re fine wine.

Speaking of aesthetics:

a little forest

Every shot is beautifully framed and executed, and the colors are warm even in the winter, reflecting an overarching theme of home that is seen throughout. “Little Forest” invites you into the country, displaying stunning scenery, likable characters, and appetizing food.

If you live alone you might eat for convenience, just quickly making something and not caring about presentation or originality, but food in this film is shown as a pleasure both in the eating, making, and sharing. A well-made pudding is used to build bridges, an apple grown with love and attention is given as a gift to a possible crush. Sweet chestnuts; shaved tree bark; edible flowers; sweet, dried persimmons for the winter. Here we see the benefit of slow food, carefully prepared and appreciated.

a little forest

Hye Won’s relationship with food is representative of her relationship with her mother. We see flashbacks to her childhood, when she is watching her mom cook and learning life lessons through food, which is a continuing theme in the movie and gives us subtle, almost mysterious insight into the young woman who is as much a product of her mother as she is the earth. Every moment between the two is shown in the context of preparing a meal; even when they’re outside, they’re are happily tucking into something yummy.

Their relationship is as tempestuous as the seasons, and Hye Won seems to begrudge her mother’s actions whilst admiring her, resembling her and following in her footsteps. In one particular flashback, Hye Won begs her mom not to ruin a meal by shaving tree bark on top of it, then, cut to the present, she does the same. It’s a really touching element to the story and one not often enough explored in cinema today, focusing more on romantic relationships than familial ones.

a little forest

There is a little romance in “Little Forest,” or at least elements of the genre, but it’s the female relationships that drive the story. Hye Won’s mother, aunt, and childhood best friend influence her, aggravate her, and are shown to be a part of her; these relationships are explored subtly and with measure throughout the movie. In the beginning, Hye Won is avoiding human connection, and she wants to return home without taking on all that that would mean: reuniting with friends and addressing the scars of the past. It’s through her eventual understanding of her past and her friendships that she becomes fully in touch and present, able to make the decision to stay where she belongs.

If you’re looking to get away from the chaos of the city, “Little Forest” can be your escape. It’s one for your favorites list and definitely worth a repeat viewing, especially if you’re in need of some cooking tips! Check out “Little Forest” on Viki now!

Watch the full film below:

MizWest  is an English Teaching Assistant with way too much time on her hands. When she’s not watching dramas or shaking it to K-pop, she’s studying everything Korean culture with a view to move out there some day soon!

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a little forest

K-Movie Spotlight: “Little Forest” Sketches A Poignant Tale About Getting Lost and Getting Found

Little forest  overflows with lessons about the essential things that spark unadulterated joy and inspiration to living..

little forest

Title: Little Forest Production Company: Watermelon Picture | Megabox Plus M Themes: Personal Healing, Friendship Length: 103 Minutes Release Date: 28 February 2018 Main Leads: Kim Tae Ri | Ryu Jun Yeol | Moon So Ri | Jin Ki Joo Highlights: Healing Power Of Nature | Value Of Friendship  | Self Love Overall Rating: Re-Watch Value: Related Film/ Dramas: When The Weather Is Fine | Chocolate

This wonderful 2018 slice-of-life film is a delight to viewers with its light, heartwarming depiction of a contemplative life in a quiet countryside village.

Quick Plot Round-Up

little forest

Immersing Into The Quiet Country Life

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The small town seems to take her back with open arms as she drifts into its laid-back relaxed charm. Together with Eun Sook and Jae Ha, Hye Won obliviously adapted into the simplicity and quietness of the country life. She diligently engages herself into farming activities as she enjoys the bounty of nature.

little forest

Those memories of her mother are something she cannot seem to shrug off. Flashback scenes randomly come flooding her vision – those mundane moments she shared with her mother when they bonded over preparing delightfully appetizing meals.

little forest

Character Review

Hye won (kim tae ri).

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The story’s protagonist is a young adult caught in the crossroads of life. She is a beautiful character to watch with so many things to teach us with her flaws as a human.

Her father died when she was young. Her mother, whom she loved so much, left her for reasons unknown to her. She lives in solitude for the most part of her life enduring emotional battles alone. Hye Won is a sum of all tribulations caused by resentment, frustration and confusion.

As burdened as she may be, she is just as resilient and uncomplaining as much. She wanted to break free from the vicious cycle of a hollow life. With a leap of faith, she fearlessly left everything and set off somewhere else where she could heal.

Lee Jae Ha (Ryu Jun Yeol)

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Jae Ha breaks the stereotypical image of farmer. Wise beyond his age, he has developed into a profound and philosophical person. He tried his luck in Seoul and found himself working in a big company. He worked as a corporate employee, but it seems meaningless to him.

Joo Eun Sook (Jin Ki Joo)


Eun Sook has lived in their small town all her life. She works as a dissatisfied bank employee and longs to escape the tacky life in the town village.

Hye Won’s Mother (Moon So Ri)

little forest

Although she was sparingly shown in the film through flashbacks, she portrayed the character of a loving mom who took life’s adversities with a positive and strong resolve.

She, too, had her share of inner longing to pursue an unfulfilled purpose in life. Without any elaborate depiction, it seems that she her sudden disappearance is to find her own place, in a figurative sense.

Journey To Personal Healing

little forest

We live in a harsh world which will never stop for us even when we are knocked down by setbacks in life. This film is a wonderful gift for people who are hounded by their bitter past, hammered by the series of travails and devoured by the anxiety caused by the uncertainty of the future. It invites us to take a step back, listen and reflect upon the silent voice inside us.

Hye Won understood her need for emotional clarity and some closures for the things that still haunt her. And it started by acknowledging her pain. With it came the courage to leave behind the things that weigh her down. Slowly, she was able to re-build her life with a shift in her life priorities.

And only after finally being healed that she was able to understand and graciously forgive her mother. As she emptied her heart from the grudge that had consumed her for a long time, she sincerely prayed for her mother’s healing too.

Value Of Friendship

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The friendship Hye Won forged with Jae Ha and Eun Sook over time has filled in the huge void in her life and has helped her to look at the world with fresh eyes. The warm and welcoming company they gave her is comforting and reassuring enough for her to realize that material things take a backseat when it comes to real happiness. It is the intangible things that make one essentially rich in every sense.

Food For The Soul

little forest

Life in the big city has been too much for Hye Won. Its grim mundanity has left her hungry both literally and figuratively. Seoul has nothing but bland, manufactured food to offer leaving her always empty. In a deeper sense, city life has left Hye Won aching for something that would feed her soul.

As she moved back to her hometown, she gained a renewed vigor through the art of food-making. Her love for food has always been there, waiting to be explored. And it’s something she has to thank her mother and nature for.

little forest

Hye Won discovered how nature has its way of clearing away her weariness and allowing her to appreciate life with wild abandon. She basks in its beauty – serene and peaceful, as if speaking to her in a unique language that goes deep enough to heal her wounds.

Little Forest Afterthoughts

Little Forest brims with so many life lessons through its simple storytelling. It is the kind of contemplative story that will tug at your heartstrings with its subtly dramatic narrative with deep character study.  The film offers poignant points about healing and enlightenment.

The story’s heroine is a perfect depiction of a character overwhelmed with disappointments and frustrations over uncontrollable things. Yet she gained more than what she lost by embracing her innate passion- food and nature.

Its cinematography remarkably highlights the beauty of nature. Nature, indeed, has its unique healing power that immensely impacts humans and every relationship dynamics.


The film’s message is simple – the simplest and most essential things in the world  are the ones that bring genuine happiness to us. It’s not the prestige of one’s job nor the amount of money in every paycheck. Rather, it is by being true to one’s nature and listening to the silent voice in one’s heart that one can see the profound fulfillment in life.

Indeed, food and nature beautifully wrapped the film in metaphors. It teaches us that all good things take time to cultivate.

Moreover,  Little Forest teaches us that its okay to feel lost sometimes. It is our ardent desire to find ourselves and be at peace with it that matters.

Little Forest is our story too. Most of us are lost and have become jaded due to the demands of the world. Yet, just like Hye Won, a heroine in her own emotional battle, we too can eventually come to terms with a painful yesterday, uncontrolled circumstances or anything that is weighing us down.

After all, in the greater scheme of things, being is more important than having. May we also find our own little forest that will bring us deeper appreciation of life.

Watch Little Forest’s Trailer:

Image credits: Megabox Plus M

Streaming Platform: Viu

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What ‘Little Forest’ gets so right about women, food and relationships

There’s something so fulfilling about watching food go from raw produce to a cooked meal that’s shared and enjoyed by people. Director Hayao Miyazaki understood the inherent simplicity of using food as a way to establish relationships with his vivid depictions of animated food, as do most Japanese slice of life dramas. South Korean director Im Soon-rye also understands this intimately, if her work in Little Forest is anything to go by.

Directed by South Korea’s leading female director, Little Forest is based on a Japanese manga which has previously been adapted for screen in Japan. Having never seen the films or read the manga, I watched director Im’s take on the work as an original piece of work. Her previous work has often been politically charged, often dealing with heavy themes; the slice-of-life narrative provided in Little Forest is an unexpected change of pace. Yet despite the lack of conflict, easygoing nature and lighter themes, it is no less than any of her previous films for its keen observations of people, relationships and society.

We follow Hae-won ( The Handmaiden ‘s Kim Tae-ri), a twenty-something who has returned from Seoul to the tiny countryside village she grew up in after failing a teaching examination, the last straw after finding her life in Seoul stale and her romantic relationship unfulfilling. Another thing that’s stale? The food in Seoul.

a little forest

“Instant food didn’t fill me up. I meant it when I said I came back because I’m hungry.”

Much of the film is made up of Hae-won farming, plucking raw produce, preparing food and enjoying the food she’s made by herself or with friends. How these scenes are framed are simple and unassuming, mostly using overhead shots during food preparation and cooking with Hae -won’s voiceover on what the food means to her, especially in its seasonal context. Despite its simplicity, there is meticulous attention and care in the way the camera follows how food goes from the land, is prepared and finally consumed and shared with people, that it’s easy to see that the care we have for our food is a metaphor for how we treat ourselves and others.

Hae-won tells her childhood friend Eun-sook (Jin Ki-joo) that she returned because she was hungry and tries to not admit that she returned to the village because she felt like a failure. But there is truth in her excuse. Her finding the food in Seoul unsatisfying and lacking in nourishment is merely a symptom of her dissatisfaction with the rat race life in Seoul. The food she prepares with her own two hands fills her up and gives her joy. It rebuilds and heals her mind, soul and body.

More telling about Hae-won’s intimate relationship with food is its place in her relationships. Her boyfriend in Seoul tells his friends that she cooks lunch for him everyday, and they mock him, to which he hastily replies “Oh, I wished she’d use the time to study instead”. Hae-won cooks for the people she cares about, and when Hae-won overhears him saying that, she never cooks lunch for him again.

Back in the countryside, Hae-won is constantly making and sharing food with her two friends, Eun-sook and Jae-ha (Ryu Jun-yeol), and they reconnect over meals. One of the best scenes in Little Forest involves Hae-won’s preperation for a creme brulee, based off a recipe of her mother’s (played by Moon So-ri). It’s a joyful memory she has of her mother, and she uses the same creme brulee to mend the fences with Eun-sook after an argument. Hae-won’s mom tells her as a child, “Cooking reflects the heart”. When Hae Won cooks for someone, it’s because she cares about them deeply. You don’t make creme brulee for someone if you don’t love them.

a little forest

“Mum coming to mind everytime I cook. It’s like I’m always competing with her.”

When the film begins, Hae-won’s feelings towards her mother are complicated. She feels abandoned and resentful after her mother disappeared on her just before she graduated high school. But being back in the house she grew up in brings back so many beautiful memories she had with her mother. As Greta Gerwig put it about making her own mother/daugher film, Lady Bird , “I don’t know a single woman that doesn’t have the most complicated, crazy, beautiful relationship with their mother”.

Food is the heart of the relationship between Hae-won and her mother. The love both have for each other is all wrapped up in food. As a child, Hae-won thought her mother was a food genius, “inventing” recipes like okonomiyaki and creme brulee, only to realize when she is in Seoul that they weren’t original, leaving Hae-won feeling a mixture of exasperation and affection for her eccentric mother.

Food is also her mother’s legacy, as the recipes that Hae-won observed her mother make as a child, is adapted to her own take as an adult and shared with other people; –thereby creating her own unique legacy and relationships with food.

Ultimately, Hae-won comes to understand her mother’s intentions better, that in her own strange way, she wanted Hae-won to lead her own life and find her way back to her roots on her own terms without pressuring her. She leaves to give Hae-won that choice and to also finally find herself as a woman outside of being Hae-won’s mother after all the years following her husband’s (and Hae Won’s father) passing.

a little forest

Sometimes you have to go away from what you know to know what you really need. If a major part of Little Forest was about Hae-won’s relationship with her mother, the other is Hae-won healing, growing and finding herself.

It is evident Hae-won has mixed feelings about returning to her little village. While she loves working on her own and cooking, she makes vague remarks about returning to Seoul. Like every country to city story, people from the village and herself included, regard thriving in Seoul as success. To return to the countryside implies failure. But ultimately, what the film shows us is that everyone grows at their own pace, and will thrive in the environment that best suits them.

Greta Gerwig has also said, “To me there’s something so inevitable about growing up and denying where you’re from and realising two minutes too late that it was a beautiful place.” Sacramento in Lady Bird is lensed with a warm, deliberate postcard quality. Similarly, the countryside where Hae-won grows up and returns to is lensed with so much natural light. Everything looks warm and cosy, even in her small home. In contrast, the flashbacks to Hae -won’s life in Seoul take place look cold and sterile, her apartment poorly lit and lacking in warmth and joy.

Hae-won’s return to the village where she grew up therefore is not a sign of weakness, as she eventually learns, and what she really needed – and that the city couldn’t provide – was nourishment for her soul, both literally and metaphorically.

a little forest

Food is the key to everything in Little Forest . Food is intimacy, it is communication, nourishment for the body and soul. It evokes memories; it is the bridge in relationships and it is in everything Hae-won does. Food is Hae-won’s relationship with her mother in that like cooking, it can be frustrating and complicated and elusive the way Hae-won’s mother is, but ultimately it can be the most rewarding, satisfying and beautiful thing.

Little Forest reminded me of two films. One, of course, was Greta Gerwig’s recent Lady Bird , in its excellent depiction of mother/daughter relationships. The other was the late Adrienne Shelly’s Waitress which was also was a female led, female directed film about using food to connect with people. These are small stories with a clear, focused point of view unique to women and their experiences and are deeply empathetic. They show women as flawed and complex and their relationships with each other as rich and multi-dimensional.

It is my hope that big or small in scale, these stories will continue to be told so women all over the world can see themselves reflected in art made by women and for women.

Film Review: Little Forest

a little forest

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Love your review! Very well-written.. You definitely tempted me to start this immediately!

Thank you so much! I hope you end up watching the film and liking it as much as I did <3

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Little Forest

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Rent Little Forest on Prime Video, or buy it on Prime Video.

Critics Reviews

Audience reviews, cast & crew.

Yim Soon-rye

Ryu Jun-yeol

Hye-won's Mother

Park Won-sang


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Little Forest (2018)

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Little Forest streaming: where to watch online?

Currently you are able to watch "Little Forest" streaming on Kocowa, Hoopla, AsianCrush or for free with ads on Tubi TV, Cineverse. It is also possible to rent "Little Forest" on Amazon Video online and to download it on Amazon Video.

A young woman leaves the city to return to her hometown in the countryside. Seeking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, she becomes self-sufficient in a bid to reconnect with nature.

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