A film with such a racially derogatory title such as Gook is never going to be a bed of roses. Yes, I expected anguish, injustice and abrasive violence, yet nothing could prepare me for the journey the film took me on.
This black-and-white feature created an alchemic aura behind the Mise-en-scène that adds an exactness to proceedings, as you watch two brothers take a stab at success running a shoe store, and I can guarantee you will never be as hooked with the hope of a successful LA shoe store ever again. There’s a twist of the knife at every turn and it takes no time at all for you to fall in love with the amiably adorable lead protagonist amongst all of the rigid racial tension.
Gook is an atypical view of attempting to live the American dream, in the almost dystopian aftermath of the LA riots in 1992. The story follows two Korean American brothers Eli (played by writer and director Justin Chon) and Daniel (David So) who have formed an unlikely friendship with innocent 11-year-old African-American Kamilla (Simone Baker). Eli and Kamilla’s relationship is almost the Romeo and Juliet of friendships, her innocence is riddled curiosity and when you mix it with Eli’s humble compassion, they make a cocktail that film directors should take note of in the future.
The grit of the plot narrates the disparity of the trio as they try to keep their head above water whilst being hounded by various gangs and fall behind on rent. It’s a time old tale, yet, I haven’t been sobered in such a way since I first saw American History X. While Gook may not pertain all of that gore, it contains something far more immersive; fragility. Every second of the feature is a fracture of chaos that forces tensions to escalate to the point you would be able to hear a pin-drop. If you’ve ever wondered what the aftermath of the LA Riots looked like from a Korean-American point of view, then this film is one you won’t want to miss out on and if you’ve never wondered, then why not open your mind a little?
Gook is screening in selected UK cinemas now and is available on DVD and Digital from 9 April