Thursday, January 28, 2010
Everyone knows the phrase ‘quality over quantity’, well that is the best way to describe Korean director Bong Joon-ho. In 10 years he has directed only 4 full length features, and a couple short films. Including the highlight of the compilation film ‘Tokyo’ titled ‘Shaking Tokyo’. In 2000 he debuted with the lesser known ‘Barking Dogs never Bite’ (which I shamefully admit I have not seen). 3 years later he amazed fans and critics alike with the absolutely brilliant ‘Memories of Murder’, a film telling the story of the most notorious unsolved murder case in Korean history. Another 3 years later, and he took the mainstream world by storm with the internationally acclaimed ‘The Host’. Now after another 3 years we have what some has called “the follow up to Memories of Murder”, and eventually the topic of this review, ‘Mother’.
Taking place in modern day Korea, the film tells a simple tale of a Mothers love for her son, but uses the dark setting of a murder mystery. Kim Hye ja plays the mother in question who lives alone with her mentally disabled son(Won Bin), who innocently finds himself getting into trouble hanging out with a local ‘bad-ass’. This leaves his poor mother struggling to manage her shop, and try to keep him out of trouble. Their struggle only gets worse when a young girl is found murdered one morning, and all evidence points to him, even though he only remembers going home and to sleep the night before. There is no way she is going to believe that he is the killer, even though nobody is on her side, and the police are ready to close the case. She is willing to go to all lengths to prove her sons innocence, even if it means breaking the law herself. Putting herself into some of the most tense situations you will witness on screen.
Kim Hye Ja’s performance is superb, her portrayal of a poor, struggling, alone, but loving mother is heartbreaking, (and has nabbed a couple awards). In fact the screenplay for the film was actually written for her, and around the filmmaker’s faith that she was meant for the role, a gamble that she has proven to be a wise one. Also notable is the return of actor Won Bin, who had taken a few years off to serve his mandatory time in the military, and who’s last film ‘My Brother’ was also a family drama that delve into themes of a mother /son relationship.
From the moment we are introduced to the young girl’s death, the suspense doesn’t stop; it only gets stronger and stronger up to the final scenes. Bong has done it again, and further proves that he not only one of the most talented directors to come out of South Korea, but has proven to be one of the best directors in the world.
A Film by: Bong Joon-ho