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Another gem from director Bong Joon-ho
on 4 December 2010
"Mother" is the story of the mother of Do-joon, a mentally slow 27 year old still living at home. The mother is an unlicenced acupuncturist who sells medicinal herbs from her small town shop. After a night on the town, Do-joon is accused of murdering a school girl. The mother, believing her son innocent, investigates the facts behind the murder and slowly but slowly determines the identity of the murderer.
Bong Joon-ho, the Korean director of acclaimed films "Memories of Murder" and "The Host", has created another modern gem in "Mother". Following a slightly bizarre opening in which the mother walks through a meadow and then breaks into a dance, "Mother" slowly but assuredly moves forward to its shattering conclusion. In contrast to his previous effort "The Host", there is little in the way of special effects, and "Mother" is very much a story driven film. This is a strength of Bong's; he is able to tell a story without reverting to unnecessary window dressing. However, the real delight of the film is the portrayal of both the mother (Kim Hye-ja in a poignant performance) and of the son (Won Bin, the younger brother from Taeguk-gi aka "Brotherhood"). Both actors put in stellar turns but they are ably assisted by the supporting cast - particularly Jin Ku as Jin-tae, who puts in a crucial turn that belies his initially unsympathetic characterisation. The film's events takes place in a small (unidentified) town in South Korea, and this has a distinctly grimy and rural feel, both in setting and in its inhabitants.
Issues? Well, this is not a particularly fast paced movie and this is quite reminiscent of another director who knows how to tell a story, Clint Eastwood. Still, I think the pacing could have been picked up in a couple of places, and the director does take his time in establishing his characters before moving to the violent event that really sets the story in motion. But this is the only fault I could find, and I couldn't bear to mark this film down for that, because it is a brilliant cinematic story in all other respects.