In Acacia, a couple in their thirties, Mr and Mrs Kim, decide to adopt a child after years of trying to conceive themselves. When visiting a local orphanage, Mrs Kim is drawn to a painting by one of the orphans and asks to meet him. Although he is a little older than they were planning, the couple decide to go ahead with the adoption and before long, the small boy, named Kim Jin-sung, is home with them and settling into his new family. He sometimes behaves oddly, having an obsession with an acacia tree in the back garden, but the Kims put this down to his unhappy past and he soon seems to settle.
Then Mrs Kim finds herself to be pregnant. Shocked and surprised, she hastens to comfort Jin-sung, promising him that he will be just as important to her when the new baby comes along. Jin-sung is not convinced; especially when he overhears Mrs Kim’s mother making remarks about him. When the baby comes, Jin-sung’s behaviour is more and more erratic. One day, following a row with his mother, Jin-sung disappears and fails to return. The effect of his disappearance brings the Kim family to their knees…but strangely the tree, which has failed to bloom for years, suddenly bursts into bloom. Is Jin-sung trying to wreck his revenge on the family? And is he alive or dead?
There was nothing particularly outstanding about Acacia, but it is nevertheless enthralling from beginning to end. There was an excellent twist at the end that was a real surprise.
To begin with, Hye-jin Shim, who plays Mrs Kim, wasn’t particularly impressive. She did a lot of flouncing around and generally was quite obnoxious, but she did really seem to grow into the role throughout the course of the film. Mrs Kim is not a likeable character and it wasn’t particularly easy to feel much sympathy; nevertheless, her role was a particularly difficult one and she did an excellent job. The scenes she did with Jin-sung were particularly good. There was a lot of anger and grief in these scenes and it must have been very hard for Ms Shim to act in such a way in front of a young child. She also did a very good job of having a slow but steady nervous breakdown.
Little Jin-sung, played by Oh-bin Mun, was excellent. It cannot be easy to persuade a child of his young years to perform in the way that he did, but he was totally realistic and at times very creepy. However, his parents must have thought twice about letting him be involved; he had to say and do things that most parents would rather avoid.
Mr Kim is played by Jin-geun Kim. Until Jin-sung went missing, he didn’t make much of an impact, but then he suddenly seemed to change personality. He realises that his wife is slowly going mad, but instead of supporting her, he seems to suddenly turn against her and there are some quite violent scenes when he attacks and rapes her. He isn’t quite as believable as his wife, though he did an adequate job. He does have some superb scenes towards the end of the film though.
The film was directed by Ki-hyung Park, who was the director of Whispering Corridors. Compared to that, Acacia is a much more mature film. Whispering Corridors is full of strange happenings and poor special effects. The special effects in Acacia are much more subtle and believable. The cinematography is stunning at times. There is strong red theme; for example, the light shining on the acacia tree and the mad arrangement of red wool that Mrs Kim places throughout the house. This presumably is meant to remind the audience of blood, even though there is very little blood seen in the film.
The acacia tree is an interesting symbol to choose. It is not a common theme of Asian symbolism, but it is used to show the circle of life and death and how evil deeds have a far more all-encompassing reach than those immediately involved. The use of Jin-sung’s paintings, based on The Scream by Edvard Munch, were a far more effective symbol in the film. The constant appearance of the paintings throughout were really unnerving.
Acacia isn’t a masterpiece, but it is intriguing and a lot more subtle that many films of its genre. It is well worth a watch.