Riceboy Sleeps

DRAMA; 1hr 57 min (English, Korean with subtitles)

STARRING: Choi Seung-yoon, Ethan Hwang, Dohyun Noel Hwang

Long way home: Seung-yoon and Ethan Hwang

Abandoned as a baby on the steps of a Korean temple in 1960, So-Young (Seung-yoon, blazing her own trail) is raised in orphanages that forge her inner strength. In 1990, she emigrates to Canada with her young son, Dong-Hyun (Dohyun Noel Hwang), after the suicide of her schizophrenic partner. This is not a woman on whom the sun shines, but the fire in her belly is a whole other hullabaloo.


In elementary school, the bespectacled, button-cute Dong-Hyun is a fish out of water to his judgy white-bread classmates, who label him Riceboy and spit on him after clocking the contents of his lunchbox. When he hits back, at So-Young’s foolhardy suggestion, he is suspended from school by a principal as overwhelmed as everyone else. Nine years later, Dong-Hyun (Ethan Hwang), now known as David, has perfected the art of a Western blend with contact lenses, a blond dye job and a combative relationship with his controlling mother. So-Young, who doesn’t look to have aged a day, has also found a way forward; still working in the same factory, she now has a devoted boyfriend (writer-director Anthony Shim) who wants to marry her.


Having quietly assembled the building blocks of a displacement drawn partly from his own past, Shim gets going with a wrecking ball that smashes the standard trajectory of assimilation into something fathomless and frightening. From rocky new beginnings to an unforeseen end, So-Young’s love for her son is the impetus that propels them both through the dictates of a new cultural identity, finally coming full circle in the permanence of the past.