Starring: Kim Seo-young, Bak Seon-young, Pyo Young-jae
Director: Baek Yeob-seong
Running Time: 75 mins
Oseam is a South Korean movie about two orphans, a young blind girl and her little brother, who are taken in by a pair of Buddhist monks, and during their time at the monastery, connect with spirits and their family history, albeit in very different ways.
In all fairness, this could definitely work as a peaceful and simply beautiful children’s animation, but there’s in fact a lot more to it than that. It is beautifully animated from start to finish, and its slow and very spiritual atmosphere contributes to an engrossing watch, whilst its central story is a wonderful fable that, despite occasionally straying into extremely religious territory, is a true delight to follow.
Let’s start off with that side of the story, because it is in the end the most memorable part of Oseam. While it’s something that may go a little bit over young children’s heads, it’s a film that will be a bit of a surprise to most viewers, simply because of how deeply spiritual it can be.
On the one hand, it’s an absolutely beautiful viewing experience because of the strength of its Buddhist values throughout. As someone who doesn’t really know anything about Buddhism, it’s a film that showcases the most wholesome and peaceful elements of the religion, and does it in incredible style thanks to its consistently relaxed and down-to-earth attitude, along with the breathtaking animation throughout.
However, there are times when the film’s religious emphasis makes it a little inaccessible to some. Again, for someone who knows nothing about the religion, it’s a fascinating and beautiful watch at times, but at some of the most intensely religious parts, it’s a little difficult to really grasp what the deeper meaning of certain scenes are, something that does have an impact on your emotional connection to the main characters at times.
Despite that, however, there’s another side to the story that makes it a really delightful watch, and that’s the story detailing the brother-sister relationship between the two main characters. While the relationship between the children and the Buddhist monks is both interesting and entertaining, the most heartwarming side of the story is the strength of the sibling bond.
At times very reminiscent of the legendary Grave Of The Fireflies, particularly in the striking opening scene showing their hardship before the monks take them in, the film’s most powerful emotional core definitely comes from this side of the story, and it’s a story that those of all ages, from the youngest kids, can easily relate to and feel moved by, a real strength of the film.
Finally, a word on the incredible animation. Given that this is a Korean film, it feels a little odd to call it an ‘anime’, but its similar visual style wouldn’t make it all that far-fetched. However, there’s something about this animation, with its beautiful hand-painted characters and backgrounds that make it look like some sort of ancient scroll, that adds another level of wonderfully moving emotion to the story, a little reminiscent of Studio Ghibli’s hand-drawn delight The Tale Of The Princess Kaguya
Overall, I was very impressed by Oseam, and although its religious overtones occasionally make it a little inaccessible for the likes of me, it’s a beautifully peaceful and moving watch throughout, complemented by sublime animation throughout, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.3.