06 April 2010
At the movies: Mother.
The developmentally disabled Yoon Do-joon (Bin Won) finds himself locked away after police decide he’s the most likely person to have killed a young woman. Do-joon isn’t capable of mounting a defense of his own, and he seems doomed to fade away in the depths of the prison system- except for his devoted mother (Kim Hye-ja, in a performance that will leave you breathless). And when the authorities won’t continue their investigation into the tragic murder, only Mother can step up and dig deeper into the muck that surrounds the whole town.
An herbalist, freelance acupuncturist, and full-time guard for Do-joon, Mother has an understanding of people and an effortless guile when it comes to delving into what happened on that fateful night…
Writer/Director Bong Joon-ho (who made The Host, South Korea’s highest-grossing film of all time and a surprise hit here in the U.S.) has a remarkable ability to snag an audience early on and never let go. Following its U.S. bow at last year’s New York Film Festival, Mother has gone on to win rapturous acclaim from critics and audiences nationwide, and it isn’t hard to see why; family is universal. The unprecedented success of Shutter Island has proven that intelligent thrillers made for adult sensibilities can find traction in today’s multiplexes, and Mother is as fine an engine of suspense as world cinema has produced in years.
Kim Hye-ja’s titular performance is something of majesty, the kind of work that stays in the subconscious long after the film has ended. Bong’s construction of the film around her never drops the ball or becomes too clever for its own good, rather letting its labyrinthine twists and turns grow organically from the central question of the film: ‘What wouldn’t a mother do?’
Built like a novel, streamlined like a racehorse, and as visceral as your news of choice, this is the kind of film you just have to step back in awe from; if nothing else, Mother has the best, most expressive, overwhelmingly beautiful final shot of any film since 2002’s Morvern Callar. Bowled over by euphoria and tragedy, nothing else in theatres even comes close.