This remarkable animated documentary traces the unconventional upbringing of the filmmaker Jung Henin, one of thousands of Korean children adopted by Western families after the end of the Korean War. It is the story of a boy stranded between two cultures. Animated vignettes – some humorous and some poetic – track Jung from the day he first meet his new blond siblings, through elementary school, and into his teenage years, when his emerging sense of identity begins to create fissures at home and ignite the latent biases of his adoptive parents. The filmmaker tells his story using his own animation intercut with snippets of super-8 family footage and archival film. The result is an animated memoir like no other: clear-eyed and unflinching, humorous, and above all, inspiring in the capacity of the human heart.
A genuinely unusual and surprisingly wonderful film Approved for Adoption is a mixture of delight and sadness; a changing ebb and flow of emotions, imagery, genre and narrative.
Telling the story of Jung (pronounced “young”), a Korean boy who separated from his biological family through political conflict and war, is adopted by a caring, and ever expanding, white Belgian family. Though he is loved by his family and welcomed by his siblings can not help but feel a distance from them, a difference and confused sense of identity that causes him a great deal of grief, angst and confusion.
Beginning as an honest and occasionally sad immigrant story Approved for Adoption seamlessly slips in a coming-of-age story of self exploration and acceptance; using the prejudices of racists and the peaks and troughs of teenage hormones, the film projects an internalized struggle onto the screen in a series of bright, vivid and varied colours.
The mixture of imagery, those of the graphic novel that Jung is creating, the super-8 family home-movies of Jung’s childhood and the gritty documentary and newsreel footage that provides a contextual background, creates a layered visual tapestry that only compliments the emotional depths the narrative presents. The realism of the characters and story is evoked not through the traditional tropes of a documentary but through the artistry of both the in story comic book but also the excellent film making; the reality of the film ultimately underscored by the live action rather than founded upon it.
With an ending that left me in tears Approved for Adoption is a fresh, unusual and truly memorable cinematic experience.
You rated this film: 4
Alyse Garner - Cinema Paradiso
Classification is to be confirmed by the British Board of Film Classification