Ji Gu is a 16 year old boy living with his seriously ill grandfather in Korea. With his parents believed to be dead, Ji Gu spends most of his time getting in trouble with his gang of friends. One day a botched burglary results in Ji Gu being sent to a juvenile detention center. While incarcerated, his grandfather dies, but his case officer is able to track down his mother Hyo Seung, who Ji Gu believed to be dead. Living a chaotic life herself where she struggles frantically with money, Hyo Seung brings Ji Gu into her home and the two attempt to make up for the time they've lost. Yi-kwan Kang's Juvenile Offender is a deeply affecting drama that sets its eye on the juvenile justice system. A story that could have easily fallen into weepy melodrama never does, instead being a very organic character driven story that tugs at the heart. When we first meet Hyo Seung, she seems to be a somewhat responsible individual who couldn't be more different than her son. As the film progresses we begin to realize just how similar these two characters truly are, both being juvenile delinquents who've had a hard time getting their life in order. It's the relationship between these two characters which makes this film a powerful experience, as they both struggle to survive and share their true affection for one and other. Thematically the film is very much about the past repeating itself, with both Hyo Seung and Ji Gu struggling to break free of their checkered pasts, often falling back into similar circumstances. The film is not judgmental in the slightest, with both Hyo Seung and Ji Gu being deeply flawed characters who are both very sympathetic. Yi-Kwan Kang's Juvenile Offender is a sensible study of the Juvenile system that makes its message clear but the film never lets its message over-shadow the characters.
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