Film Review: Fix Me
Woonyea Han brings the feel-good magical realism of Miyazaki in her short film Fix Me as writer, director, and actress of the project. The story follows two timelines. One follows Woonyea as “Woman” who needs shoe repair post-breakup and the other follows a shoemaker (played by Slate Holtsclaw) as a boy who discovers a hidden ability for shoe mending.
This short is symbolic, and appears to use the shoe as a metaphor for a life lived. Woonyea is in a heart-broken place at the beginning of the story as the result of a recent breakup. The shoes, hand-me-downs from her mother, have worn soles, so she has them taken to a shoe repair shop. It is here that the story evolves into parallel timelines. While Woonyea gets her shoes repaired, we also learn a little bit about a boy and his special gift.
At this point, the auteur voice shines through with moments of surrealism. Like Sophie Hatter in Howl’s Moving Castle, the boy in Fix Me seems to have a magical ability for a trade. For Sophie, it’s in the hats, but for the boy it's in shoe mending. The boy is mute, appears to have some learning disability which alienates him from his own parents. But he shines when it comes to this other gift. His magic ability is showcased through voiceover. Shoes the boy holds come to life and they talk to him in different voices. As he massages a shoe that is broken, his magic touch changes the soles. The shoes thank him for his help.
Through subtle reveals we come to connect the boy to the modern-day shoemaker assisting the woman. He mends her shoes, and the woman reflects on how that makes someone like Steven, the shoemaker special. She is renewed through their friendship and special connection, and she can take that feeling with her in life.
The short manages to make the parallel timeline which could be confusing easy to understand through clever use of parallel action in editing. In one shoe shop, Steven is the young boy waiting around for his mother’s shoe to be fixed. In the other shoe shop in the future, Steven is the shoemaker and his mother is getting her shoe fixed.
When you come to understand the true identity of Steven, the emotional impact resonants without feeling jarring - like when flashbacks feel interrupting. You are in a similar space for most of the short and everything connects in a cyclical fashion making it easy to grasp.
The acting style is whimsical. Like in how a Wes Anderson film, it feels like you are watching a play - from theatrical stage to theatrical stage - this short feels like you’re watching an animated short. Even though the main character is hurting she doesn’t show her pain through intense sobbing like in the case of realism, but rather she shows it by taking a hand-drawn heart out of her chest. The entire short is subdued and imaginative at the same time. Even though it’s a low stakes narrative, its character, and magical quality make it something special with an uplifting message at its core.
Director Biography - Woonyea Han
Woonyea Han is an artist from Korea with a free spirit and a pure heart. In college, she majored in architecture, then worked as a curator and a painter. After learning modern dance in Europe, she flew over to the US to pursue her studies in acting and screenwriting. Now she focuses on making film and art projects by combining all the art forms she has learned.