Starring: Han Jong-Sim, Pak Chung-Guk, Ri Yong-Ho
Director: Nicholas Bonner, Anja Daelemans, Gwang Hun Kim
Running Time: 78 mins
Comrade Kim Goes Flying is a North Korean film about a countryside coal worker with a dream of becoming a famous acrobat. One day, she travels to the big city in Pyongyang on a construction job, but seizes the opportunity to work her way into the world of acrobatics, only to find that achieving her dream isn’t quite as easy as she first hoped.
The word ‘good’ is thrown around a lot. In an objective manner, there are problems with Comrade Kim Goes Flying (although not too many). In a subjective manner, however, I’ve got to say that I had a great time with this movie. Relentlessly jolly, upbeat and smiley, along with a good few laughs to boot, Comrade Kim Goes Flying is a genuinely enjoyable film that doesn’t overestimate itself, but provides a solid and consistently uplifting watch from start to finish.
One of the key reasons that I enjoyed this film so much is because it’s a comedy. We all know that the super-happy attitude of everyone depicted in this film doesn’t reflect reality anywhere in the world, but given that this isn’t a drama, that doesn’t really matter. Sure, there are moments where the incredible spirit of so many characters seems a little far-fetched, but if you can get into this film’s atmosphere from the start like me, then you can bypass that qualm and have a lot of fun.
And it is amazing how entertaining this film can be at times. Our main character, Kim Yong Mi, is an incredibly likable and ambitious protagonist whose dreams of becoming a top acrobat in Pyongyang drive the film well throughout. Getting into all sorts of awkward situations but coming out on top, I thought Yong Mi was a properly brilliant main character, and someone who I genuinely ended up cheering for when things went her way.
What’s more is that this film is as starkly feminist as anything you see Hollywood putting out these days. Yong Mi is a strong and determined person, and watching her get one over on all the men makes for some properly big laughs at times, continuously surprising and delighting me as the film gets more and more upbeat about her prospects.
Along with the delightful comedy and characters, the directing here is pretty impressive too. Save for small issues with dialogue syncing and rough editing and transitions, the way that the three directors helm this movie is great. It’s perfectly consistent in its upbeat atmosphere, and never lets any unnecessary drama or wider message get in the way of that, whilst they also manage to make a handful of some bizarre situations feel very genuine, making it even easier to enjoy all that’s going on on screen.
If there is one bigger issue that I have with this film, then it’s the story. Although it didn’t have an impact on my overall enjoyment of the film, there were moments when I would have liked Yong Mi to work a little harder to achieve her goals. It’s not an easy way to the top, but there are moments when the story skips a few beats, and it appears as if she’s advanced massively towards her dream in the blink of an eye.
Overall, though, this film far surpassed my expectations. Save for a few small issues in editing and writing, I was absolutely enchanted by this movie from start to finish, thanks to its relentlessly upbeat atmosphere, recognition of its role as a comedy, and genuinely funny characters and situations throughout, which is why I’m giving Comrade Kim Goes Flying a 7.5.