DAILY FILM DOSE: A Daily Film Appreciation and Review Blog: Mother

Wednesday 7 March 2012


Mother (2009) dir. Bong Joon-Ho
Starring: Hye-ja Kim, Bin Won, Ku Jin


By Alan Bacchus

One of Asian cinema’s current giants, Bong Joon-Ho is primarily known for his cross-over creature feature The Host. But in his follow-up picture, Mother, he executes a deeper, more emotionally driven character story, a powerful masterpiece about the impenetrable bond of mother and son.

Hye-ja is a single mother to mentally challenged Yoon Do-joon, a young man who follows around his tougher miscreant buddy, Jin-Tae. After a night out on the town Do-joon follows a young village girl home before turning in for the night. But when she turns up dead the next day as a victim of a brutal murder, Do-joon gets the blame.

Witnessing the callous indifference to her son’s pleaded innocence, the mother begins an epic journey to clear her son’s name. Fuelled by her unerring need to protect her naïve son, she comes face to face with a cacophony of hard-ass cops, slimy/drunken lawyers and varied petty criminals in the name of justice.

Joon-ho’s magnificent script never rests, as it constantly changes pace and sends us on a number of sudden and shocking twists. While The Host elevated Joon-ho to international genre auteur of the highest order, Mother lines up more with his murder mystery Memories of Murder, an equally beguiling and intense pot boiler. His razor sharp criminal procedural plotting creates an intense and sometimes frantic pace. And we’re putty in his hands as he moves us elegantly through sequences of absurd humour and heartbreaking moments of emotional release.

Hye-ja’s performance might just be the last word in female revenge heroes. Forget about Lisbeth Salander or Thelma & Louise, hell hath no fury like this woman scorned (sorry, I couldn’t resist that line). Hye-ja’s supremely interesting face contains a range of remarkable emotions, from supreme sadness and pity to laser-sighted intensity. Joon-ho subverts our expectations through a number of turns, giving us a couple of red herrings to tease us before unveiling a climax that turns Hye-ja’s character inside-out.

Unlike the generic and salaciously titled Memories of Murder, Mother is the only appropriate title for this film. By the end it ceases to be about who did what to whom and more about the clouded version of justice a mother conceives for her son.

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