With a wonderful mixture of both comedy and tenderness, Lee Han’s Punch (Wan-deuk Yi) is a splendid slice of life film. Wan-deuk (Yoo Ah-in) has just moved to Seoul, with his hunchback father (Park Su-Young) and his Uncle Min-Goo (Kim Yeong-Jae). Wan-deuk has a history of being a rebellious teen, but meets his match, with his new homeroom teacher, Dong-Ju (Kim Yun-Seok). When he isn’t bothering him at school, Dong-Ju manages to bother Wan-deuk at home, since he’s his new next door neighbor. While he’s a constant nuisance at every turn, Dong-Ju one day drops a bombshell on Wan-deuk and tells him that he knows his long lost mother and that she’s been longing to see him. Bristling with fantastic performances and loads of charm, Punch is a film that manages to be delightful, heartwarming and wholly satisfying, as an adolescent comedy.
The entire cast and the character development make Punch an incredibly moving film, that always feels honest and sincere. As the loner with a temper, Yoo Ah-in’s portrayal of the troubled teen manages to always feels dimensional and never comes off as a stereotypical teen with issues. I had only previously seen Kim Yun-Seok in The Chaser, but his portrayal as the obnoxious, yet quirky teacher is sheer joy to behold. For awhile, I had issues with the narrative in Punch, or the lack of it, but that quickly went away the more I learned about the characters. The longer you see them on screen and how they all interact with one another, the more inclined you are to see their stories unfold.
Not only do the characters help sell the film, but the films issues, whether they be about being a Bi-racial child or being abandoned by a parent, really ground Punch. All of the issues that Wan-deuk deals with in the film are problems that many can relate to and makes the film feel much more personal, while still maintaining to be hilarious. When we do get to scenes where Wan-deuk is on good terms with Dong-Ju or when he speaks to his Filipino mother, it feels rewarding on the organic journey that has taken place.
5 Points Pictures has managed to do an excellent job with their release of Punch, that comes with a bonus disc, that comes with a great amount of extras. There are a few behind the scenes videos, including one with the author of the original book, Kim Ryeo-ryeong, explaining the process of translating the nuances from text to screen. There’s also cast and crew bios and plenty of other extras that make Punch a fantastic release from 5 Points.
For those that want something completely different from Korean cinema and wish to see what else the country has to offer than intense thrillers and action bonanzas, watch Punch and I guarantee you’ll be wanting more from this delightful film. Highly Recommended!