Do-joon (Bin Won) has a widowed mother (Hye-ja Kim) who is utterly devoted to him. He may be simple, but he’s all she has and she works hard to support them both. Doting and protective, she only wants the best for him.
Then, one night, a local schoolgirl is found brutally murdered and the evidence found at the scene points to Do-joon, who has no memory of the night. Naive and easily confused, he is quickly taken into custody and ends up confessing to the killing.
But his mother is not so easily convinced and begins a one-woman campaign to find the truth about the murder and clear her son’s name…no matter what it takes.
Mother is the fourth feature from Bong Joon-ho and his first since the commercial and critical success of his monster movie The Host, which was a box office hit in Korea and a favourite on the international festival circuit. However, both tonally and in terms of subject matter, this is much closer to 2003’s Memories of Murder, arguably Bong’s best film to date.
Both films deal with a murder case being investigated by an ineffective police force but while Memories of Murder presents a scathing look at the Korean justice system, Mother uses the plot simply as set up. This is primarily an examination of the self-sacrificing and even blind love of a mother.
The central character is defined almost exclusively by her maternal role. Indeed, she does not even have a name and is referred to throughout simply as “Do-joon’s mother”. Without exception, she puts his needs above her own, sacrificing anything and even resorting to violence if it means there is a chance she can clear her son’s name.
With such an emphasis on the main role, Mother requires a grandstand central performance and Hye-ja Kim delivers just that. Her protrayal is subtle and carefully nuanced, yet always compelling and utterly convincing. Bong Joon-ho supports her with some great camera angles and a keen sense of pacing so that, even as the plot unfolds, our attention remains firmly fixed on his leading lady.
The pacing is deliberate, but never slow. The plot keeps ticking as the mother keeps taking another step closer to finding what really happened on the night the schoolgirl died. Through it all, Bong Joon-ho laces it all with that black humour so inherent in modern Korean thrillers, keeping everything from becoming flattened by the weight of grim determination.
A strong drama, expertly told and wonderfully acted, Mother is a high-quality piece of work and was understandably Korea’s submission to the 82nd Academy Awards earlier this year. In addition, it continues to chart Bong Joon-ho as a director of rare talent.
- Making of Mother
- Interview with Bong Joon-ho
- Main Characters & Director
- Behind the Scenes
DIRECTOR(S): Bong Joon-ho | COUNTRY: South Korea | YEAR 2009 | DISTRIBUTOR(S): Madman | RUNNING TIME: 124 minutes | ASPECT RATIO: 16:9 anamorphic (2.35:1) | REGION: 4 | DISCS: 1