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Movie review: First they killed my father

MovieFirst they killed my father
Genre biographical, historical thriller
TNS Score86.9
CastSareum srey moch, Phoeung kompheak, Sveng socheata
Director Angelina Jolie


The film is inspired by Loung Ung’s memoir of surviving the Khmer Rouge. The story revolves around five years old Ung and her family, facing the political unrest’s tyranny when Khmer Rouge assumed power over Cambodia in 1975. The reign of terror lasted for four years in which nearly one-fourth of Cambodia’s population was killed in the genocide.


Registered in world history, Khmer Rouge’s reign wasn’t only tyrannical but very heart-wrenching as we see the story of five years old, Ung. Driven away from the family home in Phnom Penh, the family has broken apart and made to live in worse conditions, much like millions of other civilians.

The narrative is beautifully structured. The story stands displaying the intense journey of Ung’s life as it takes a 360-degree turn around. There’s a paradigm shift in the condition of her life; in one moment, she’s safe, at her home playing with her toys, and in the next moment, she’s holding a gun, learning to fire it, and watching people get blown away. The story is based on real-life experiences, but these experiences have been woven together in a leveled narrative structure, heightening the impact.


Directional brilliance can be seen right from the beginning. The film is not very dialogue-heavy; the director makes up for it and delivers only raw emotions on screen. It takes us back to Cambodia of 1975 and the brutality that the time witnessed.

The cinematography complements the narrative and direction, adding up to the final impact. One of the remarkable scenes was the aerial shots of migrants in the first half. As a reform, equality was enforced by Angkar, more than welcomed in Cambodia at that time. The mood and milieu of the film is established with the right direction of the narrative.


Sareum Srey Moch has characterized Loung Ung in all her essence. This child actor has done a great job in portraying a child’s complex emotions and dilemmas going through something so brutal. Sveng Socheata and Phoeung Kompheak play Ung’s parents’ role, and they’ve done it well.

source: Netflix

More than the language, it was the expression that counted for the film to be impactful. All the characters were played with due diligence and concern.


The film is heart-wrenching. It invokes a restless pathos when one knows that actual life events inspire it. With brilliant narrative structure, cinematics, direction, and screenplay, the film deserves a high commendation. It certainly deserves a watch!

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