Movie review: A Cambodian Winter

Updated: Apr 16, 2021

There are some films that leave us with an overwhelming sense of regret and contentment at the same time. The regret of lost innocence, along with the bliss of seeing happy children playing around amidst scenic nature, that’s what A Cambodian Winter leaves you with.

A Cambodian Winter is directed by Forest Wise and produced by Forest Wise and Bopha Phourng Lav. Although the film’s origin lies in the USA, it's set entirely in Cambodia and shows the life-changing journey of three orphans.

Determined to visit the sea in search of her parents, Pim, along with Chamron set out from their orphanage and on their way meets Kith, another orphan. Three of them go through various experiences on their way to the sea, with Kith trying to teach both the girls about how to survive in this cruel world.

As they reach the sea, Pim realizes that she doesn’t find this milestone so important anymore. Towards the end of the film, Kith and Pim seem attracted to each other discovering the family they have been searching for all along. Finally, the narrator (Chamron) says that what she learnt from this journey is the existence of love amongst cruelty.

Set against the backdrop of strikingly exotic Cambodian nature the film boasts endearing and aesthetically shot visuals. The rural Cambodian landscape is captured in beautiful long shots, while the constant inner turmoil of Pim, the general aloofness Kith tries to show, and the innocence of Chamron are accurately portrayed through closeups. The muted color palette and relaxed pace of the film add to its earthy appeal for the viewers.

The three main characters, well-performed by the child actors, add to the realistic and yet fantastical approach of the film, seen from a child’s perspective. Their journey is deftly shown by Forest Wise who thoughtfully touches upon a lot of other interesting and grim social elements. In one sequence the inhumaneness of the Cambodian refugee crisis is narrated by a victim. In another shocking one, the girls fall victim to a child molester. Also, the symbolic and impactful conversations that Pim has with various animals at different points in the film make it more noteworthy.

The film has won Best Narrative Feature – Drama and Film of the month in KIFF (Himachal Pradesh). It is a picturesque film where a sense of playfulness and the inherent Cambodian zest of life, despite the struggle to survive, are smartly portrayed by the director. Pim’s yearning to be with her actual family, her friendship with Chamron, her attraction towards Kith, and finally finding a new family with both of them, explores our yearning for love, appreciation and family.

Watch The Trailer:

A Cambodian Winter

Genre: Drama, tragedy

Run time: 109 minutes

Director/Writer: Forest Wise

Producer: Forest Wise, Bopha Phourng Lav

Key Cast: Pim Chan, Kith Cheang, Chamroeun Taing

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