Mother (2009)

Madeo (South Korea)

Bong Joon-ho’s fourth feature, “Mother,” was well received when it world premiered at the Cannes Film Fest in May, though critics were surprised that the picture was placed in the “Certain Regard” series, rather than the more prestigious competition, where South Korea was represented with a lesser effort, the socially-conscious vampire tale, “Thirst.”
 
"Mother" has just been selected to represent Korea for the best foreign language film in the next year's Oscar. The film plays at the Toronto and then N.Y. Film Fests.  According to the Korean Film Council, the strength of the story's narrative, its potential for a wide release in the U.S. and the director's reputation were considered as priorities for the final contender. 
 
Indeed, as a young and evolving director, with a growing audience in the global film fest circuit, Bong is full of surprises, and while there are recurrent issues in his work, each of his films is different in style. Following the smash success of his 2006 film “The Host,” Bong returns with a stylish thriller that is both detective story and a dark family psychological study.
 
Pushing beyond the limits of a conventional film noir thriller, “Mother” shows Bong refining his talent for more accessible entertainment, as he crafts a new type of imagery to reflect his disturbing, provocative, and resonant tale.
 
Kim Hye-ja plays the mother of a grown son with a slight mental disability. Childlike and slow to think about responsibility for or consequences of his actions, Do-joon (Won Bin) has grown up under the fierce protection of his mother's love. Never one to participate in the intrigues of their small town, she lives a quiet life as a traditional healer, providing herbs and acupuncture to neighbors while looking after her son.
 
Ah-jung is a pretty young student who seems to be the unfortunate guardian of the town's worst secrets. When she is brutally murdered and Do-joon is accused of the killing, it's up to mother to get him out of jail and by proving his innocence.
 
Kim's performance as the mother is both splendid and shocking, as the legendary actress has dominated Korean TV for decades, portraying one devoted mother after another on a series of successful programs. In other words, Kim has become her country's maternal archetype, an ideal of sacrifice and unconditional love.
 
The story poses a question that’s at once particular and universal, of how far a mother would (and should) go to protect her son? But rest assured that “Mother” is not structured as yet another mystery about solving a murder. Instead, the film probes deep into the cruelty, falsities and contempt of its small town, while occasionally using ferocious humor.
 
In terms of tone, Bong tones down the absurdist humor of his previous film, “The Host,” which Magnolia released with great success in the U.S., in this psychological study of one man's suffering and his mother's amazing capacity for endless love.
 
The narration of “Mother” is accompanied by visually elegant, carefully structured compositions. This serene beauty contrasts powerfully with the ferocious emotion of one extraordinary mother.
 
About the director
 
Bong Joon-ho was born on Sep 14, 1969 in Daegu, South Korea, and studied at the Korean Academy of Film Arts, where he directed his short graduation film, “Incoherence” (1995). He made the short films “White Man” (1994) and “Memories in My Frame” (1994) before directing his first feature film, “Barking Dogs Never Bite” (2001). His next two features, “Memories of Murder” (2003) and “The Host” (2006), both screened at the Toronto Film Fest.
 
A winner of multiple prizes, Bong received the Tokyo Film Fest’s Asian Film Award and the San Sebastian Fest’s Silver Seashell and Fipresci award for “Memories of Murder.”
 
Cast:
 
Kim Hye-ja
Won Bin
 
Credits
 
Produced by Seo Woo-shik, Park Tae-jun.
Executive producer, Miky Lee

 

Co-executive producers, Katharine Kim, Mun Yang-gweon.
Directed by Bong Joon-ho.

Screenplay, Park Eun-gyo, Bong; story, Bong.
Cinematographer: Hong Kyung-pyo
Editor: Moon Sae-kyoung
Production Designer: Ryu Seong-hie
Sound: Choi Tae-young
Music: Lee Byeong-woo
Visual effects, AZworks.
 
Running time: 129 Minutes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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