The Recorder Exam

The Recorder Exam ★★★★

While TV coverage of the 1988 Seoul Olympics plays intermittently in the background, the story unfolds.

Nine-year-old Eunhee (Jeongone Hwang) is set to take her school recorder exam – and all the while, she’s trying to make some kind of impression on her parents, who are hard-working, not altogether present and permanently tired. Meanwhile, her big sister is mostly interested in doing grown-up-girl things and her slightly older brother is studying for his exams. And as this family’s only male offspring, his future is its most important consideration, sadly.

Essentially, each family member has a preoccupation. For Eunhee, it’s being prepared enough to not flunk her music exam and though, in the grand scheme of things, it’s a mere trifle, but for this little girl, it’s the most important thing in the world.

The film clocks in at less than 30 minutes. And it’s as long as it needs to be. It has room to breathe and we’re provided with plenty of opportunities to understand the family dynamic. And while there’s no resolution in terms of Eunhee’s goal, the viewer is left with enough information to make their own assumptions.

As is often the case with South Korean dramas, the performance of the young protagonist is exceptional (and appears to be a one-and-done acting endeavour). If you gravitate towards films like House of Hummingbird (Kim Bora’s next, full-length directorial foray) and The World of Us, you’ll love this.

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