Thrilling stuff from a sensational director
- Mother review by JB
A mother's love is a powerful thing and this movie from writer-director Bong Joon-ho, made before his sensational crossover hit Parasite, dramatises this to an extreme and devoted effect.
The mother in question, just known as "Mother" (Kim Hye-ja) lives with her twenty-something son, Yoon Do-joon (Won Bin) in near-poverty in a small South Korean town. Mother and son gain national attention when evidence implicates the son in the murder of a young woman and he is locked up, awaiting the outcome of the process. But he has been falsely accused - he has learning difficulties and the legal system favours the most articulate, and the rich, and his mother decides to step in herself to clear her son's name. She can't afford the supposedly necessary lawyer, who might not be interested anyway, but she has love on her side.
Fans of Parasite will recognise the mixture of shifting tones and attributes here; high drama and tension, mystery, violence, social commentary and off-kilter humour, to name but a few, often all existing side-by-side in a scene. It's a combination that constantly disarms and completely enthralls once you click into it. And that judicious use of an orchestral soundtrack… it's like stepping back into a warped Hitchcock movie, in the best possible way. Like Parasite, there are moments of real cinematic panache and beauty too ("Mother" in those fields… stunning).
This movie is also blessed with an extraordinary performance by Kim Hye-ja as the titular "Mother", who binds it all together. Like the film, her performance is a display of many facets… here, we have rage, anguish, determination, haughtiness, fragility and love. And that dancing at the beginning and end of the movie... Often, her son doesn't seem to understand what she's doing to help him, but that's not why she is doing it.
This is no dry essay on social inequality in South Korea, although that's the message we take away (quite rightly) from Mother. This is a full-blooded and unusual psychological, emotional, thrilling beast of a movie that ranks up there with cinema's most memorable depictions of motherhood of the last twenty five years, from Pedro Almodovar's All About My Mother to Xavier Dolan's Mommy.
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