The 2017 film A Stray Goat (눈발) is a fascinating, melancholic and timely film. Dealing with some of the harsh realities of today’s society, the film offers up a pensive slice of life in a real and blunt way.
High school student Min Sik (Park Jin Young) moves from Seoul to the provincial town of Goseong with his mother and pastor father. Starting at a new school, he meets outcast Ye Joo (Ji Woo) whom her classmates and even residents of the town shun and brand as a murderer’s daughter.
Though Min Sik reluctantly tries to fit in with the class bullies, he becomes interested in Ye Joo and comes to understand her outside of the prejudiced views of others. One day, Min Sik finds a stray goat in the forest and he and Ye Joo later decide to care for it. But their new friend may end up bringing unexpected danger.
It may seem like a simple film on paper, but it unexpectedly deals with a couple of timely topics such as mental health, school violence, prejudice and morality. The melancholic film essentially illustrates general horridness of society as a whole.
There is a sense of gloom and uneasiness throughout the film, helped in part by a careful direction and specific cinematography. Min Sik is able to befriend Ye Joo who beforehand had been living a miserable life with her father as the town pariahs. Min Sik offers a bright light for Ye Joo. But the film unflinchingly suggests that even when you find a ray of light somewhere, whether it’s a new friend or a stray goat, it can get washed out by the overwhelming darkness that is unfortunately widespread. Even when things on the surface may seem good, like people or a local church, there can be something rotten underneath.
A Stray Goat brashly illustrates that harsh reality in a most heartbreaking way. Both Park Jin Young and Ji Woo deliver great performances despite the considerably heavy material. And the film’s somber tone matches its difficult story.
Overall, A Stray Goat won’t be for everyone. There is a wistful aura to most of the film. But the melancholic film does a fascinating job at bringing to light some of the most difficult ills of today’s society in an emotional and relatable way.