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Directed by Joon-Ho Bong
Produced in 2009
Main Language - Korean with English subtitles
Weon Bin, Hye-ja Kim
Known for his wildly different films - the police thriller Memories of Murder and the monster movie The Host, South Korean director Joon-ho Bong impresses Milo Wakelin with this latest suspenseful mystery.
There is more than a touch of Hitchcock about this gripping, unexpected, South Korean mystery, which has garnered rave reviews for Kim Hye-ja’s outstanding performance as a devoted mother trying to clear her son of murder. The veteran actress plays the kind of overprotective maternal role that would have made the Master of Suspense purr with delight, and her character recalls aspects of Notorious’s Anna Sebastian (Leopoldine Konstantin), Strangers on a Train’s Mrs. Antony (Marion Lorne) and The Birds’ Lydia Brenner (Jessica Tandy).
Hye-ja plays an unnamed widow, who works as an unlicensed acupuncturist to supplement her meagre income selling herbal remedies. She dotes on her well-meaning, mentally-challenged son, Do-joon (Won Bin), but when a local schoolgirl is found dead, he becomes an easy scapegoat. She defends him tirelessly, harassing detectives and doggedly following clues like a downtrodden Miss Marple, fearlessly confronting suspects, including Do-joon’s former best friend, Jin-tae (Jin Goo), a local troublemaker.
The police easily extract a confession, and Do-joon is left cooling his heels in jail, his addled mind struggling to recall events that could prove his innocence, while his mother sets about unearthing secrets the community would rather forget.
Director Joon-ho Bong previously directed the acclaimed police thriller Memories of Murder (2003) and the offbeat monster movie The Host (2006), and with Mother he has again taken a well-worn genre, played with its conventions, avoided its cliches, and introduced unexpected moments of tragedy, levity and revelation which draw the viewer towards a powerful denouement.
South Korean cinema is experiencing something of a renaissance, with impeccable production values, powerful (if, to our eyes, unconventional) storytelling, and a willingness to explore difficult emotions and subject matter using dark humour alongside heartfelt drama. Mother continues this tradition, but Joon-ho Bong avoids the overt violence and heavy stylisation of Chan-wook Park’s Oldboy (2003) or Lady Vengeance (2005). Instead, this film’s power lies in the details - quiet exchanges between mother and son, whose relationship is perhaps the film’s central mystery.
Milo Wakelin on 19th August 2010
Author of 103 reviews
A Korean murder mystery, Mother is set in a remote village in South Korea,where a lonely single mother looks after her mentally handicapped son Do-jun while scraping a living as an acupuncturist. But her simple, poverty-stricken life is suddenly plunged into chaos when her son is arrested for the brutal murder of a local schoolgirl. Convinced that he has been set up, the mother sets out to prove her son's innocence to the police, who seem more interested in closing the case than in researching other possible leads.
Publisher: Optimum Releasing
Length: 129 mins
Cat No: OPTD1894
Format: DVD Colour
- Documentaries: 'The Transformation of Hye-Ja Kim', 'Cast and Crew reflect'
by Barry Forshaw on 7th October 2010
Hye-ja is the obsessively devoted mother of a low-achieving, vaguely criminal son. Do-joon is 27 but simple-minded, and completely dependent on his mother. A young gir... Read on
Hye-ja is the obsessively devoted mother of a low-achieving, vaguely criminal son. Do-joon is 27 but simple-minded, and completely dependent on his mother. A young girl is found dead on the roof of a rundown building; is Do-joon the killer? His mother's bizarrely over-developed maternal instincts kick in and she sets out to find the killer and prove her son's innocence. After three remarkable feature films, Barking Dogs Never Bite, Memories of Murder & The Host, writer and director Bong Joon-ho's film is quite unlike anything you may have seen - a rich and strange experience. Hide