|Madeo 2009 South Korea Mother|
In many ways this is the natural, and equal, follow-up to Memories of Murder. It’s every bit the caper film that one was, and, although slightly more somber in tone, the film keeps unraveling in directions you don’t expect making it much more a plot driven movie than a character study. Kim Hye-ja is, however, magnificent as the titular (gawd I hate that word but I’m using it anyway) mother. There is a scene in this film where she tells the family of the victim her son didn’t do it and her eyes are so electrically charged it made me jump back from the screen. Mother fires on all cylinders. The direction, cinematography, script, and acting are all grade A. It’s one of those films where each of the secondary characters steals the show for a brief period. How ‘bout that cop who kicks the apple from Won Bin’s mouth? Bong does a remarkable job of populating the world of this film with real people and manages to give them depth and development in a very short period of time. I confess to having a little trouble tracking the other adult female characters in the film, but no matter. There is a scene (without spoiling anything here) where Kim Hye-ja asks the other ‘retarded’ kid if he has a mother and it's one of the most complex and heart-rending scenes in cinematic history. Hyperbole notwithstanding, just freakin’ WOW! on that one when you ponder just why she is crying.
I wasn’t sure where Bong was going to end up going as a film maker. Barking Dogs Never Bite was a reasonable debut. Memories of Murder, a masterpiece. But was it a lucky shot? I’m glad I don’t have to consider the dismal Antarctic Journal a Bong film if I don’t want to. The Host was lots-o-fun, but that’s the one that worried me. Maybe he was going to start making blockbuster type films. But now, after recently seeing his contribution to Tokyo!, and now Mother, I have every reason to believe he is going to kick my butt with interesting film for a long time.
Summary: Hye-ja is a ginseng vendor and an unlicensed acupuncturist in a small town in southern South Korea. She dotes on her son, Do-joon, who is 27, unemployed, and mentally incapacitated on some level, which Hye-ja seems to ignore. A high school girl is found dead on the roof of an abandoned building, and the local detectives arrest Do-joon based on circumstantial evidence. They coerce him to sign a confession and quickly imprison him. Hye-ja, distraught and convinced he is innocent, searches for the real killer, uncovering many secrets from the townspeople.
Seemingly normal people and places peel away to reveal an unsettling and subversive portrait of small-town Korea gone wrong in Mother, the latest feature from The Host director Bong Joon Ho. Veteran actress Kim Hye Ja delivers a commanding performance as the titular mother, who takes caring for and protection of her mentally and emotionally troubled adult son to a desperate extreme. Making his long-awaited comeback, popular actor Won Bin (Taegukgi) plays the sheltered man-child who gets accused of murder. Premiering at the Cannes Film Festival, Mother opened in Korea to blockbuster reception, setting a new box office record for 2009.