Review: Mother

Madeo | Bong Joon-Ho, 2010

If you knew anything about me from my reviews, then you should have known that I was going to love Bong Joon-Ho’s latest movie, Mother. If you don’t know why, go back and read some of my reviews, like for Edge of Darkness or State of Play. But I knew it was going to different since the titular Mother is not a cop with nothing to lose or a reporter looking for the truth. Yet, it still  managed to go above and beyond my expectations with an unpredictable, thrilling, and thoroughly pleasing mystery.

In the movie, the titular mother (Kim Hye-Ja) runs a medicinal herb shop, does some acupuncture on the side, and takes care of his mentally disabled son Yoon Do-Joon (Bin Won). Lately, he’s been hanging out with a not-so-good kid, and he’s been having some rather dirty thoughts, but she thinks it is just natural. One day, when Yoon is walking back from a bar, he sees a girl and starts following her. The next morning, she is found dead. It was the first murder in that community in many years, so the police wanted to solve it quickly. Supposedly someone say Yoon at the scene of the crime, so he is arrested and signs a confession even though he says he didn’t do it. Now, mother must try to find who really killed the girl since the police won’t do anything about it, and she will do anything to prove her son’s innocence.

Story-wise, it is not the most original movie, but every element of the movie that make it so good. This is specially true for the direction. Although it does have the look of this type of movie, it really doesn’t feel like one. It is more energetic, the close-ups put you right in the middle of the drama. Like, for example, there is a scene where mother goes to the funeral of the girl that was murdered. Her being there is obviously not welcome, and one of the women there attacks her. There are a few secons where we see the crowd gathering around them, but most of the time we are right in their faces, and when another woman comes, separates them, and slaps mother. I felt like I was getting slapped too because at that point the fight had become so personal. Joon-ho’s work is easily among the best of the year so far. Also aiding in this is the gorgeous cinematography. Only the opening scene (and the last) are bright and have a peaceful mood. The rest, while not grim, look as if there is something wrong going on

Then there is Kim Hye-ja’s performance. First off, she does look motherly, and from what I have read, in Korea she has played a lot of mothers, but mostly in comedy shows. So, it does show that she knows how to get under the skin of these characters. she doesn’t have many showy moments, but from the first frame, you are sort of hypnotized by her. And during her quest to prove that her son didn’t kill the girl, my hear almost broke during a couple of scenes. She is fantastic, and I bet her performance will stay in my top 5 leading actresses of the year.

All in all, Mother is an amazing movie. One would think based on the premise that it would be a difficult movie to watch, but it really isn’t. Sure, it doesn’t have your typical Hollywood ending, but it is still quite pleasing, and it leaves you wondering about what you would do if you were in her situation. One of the best movies of the year.

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