“She’ll stop at nothing”
RUN TIME: 129 Min.
DIRECTOR: Bong Joon-Ho
CAST: Kim Hye-ja, Won Bin
SUMMARY: A devoted and elderly mother refuses to believe her mentally diminished son could have committed the murder he is accused of; desperately she searches for the truth.
THE FILM: Bong Joon-Ho’s THE HOST was one of my favorite films of 2006, I enjoy a decent creature feature and The Host was one for the ages. I’ve been kicking myself for missing Joon-Ho’s follow-up Mother theatrically but was thrilled to take in a viewing on my home theatre system.
Mother is Hitchcockian thriller set in small-town Korea. Actress Kim Hye-ja is the titular Mother of the film; she is an acupuncturist and the proprietor of an herbalist shop. Her son, who she dotes over constantly, Yoon D0-joon (Won Bin) is an awkward, foolish, and mentally diminished 27 year old young man, his best friend is Jin-Tae (Ku Jin). At the start of the film the two young men are loitering at the front of Mother’s shop when Do-joon is violently struck by a passing vehicle, he’s not seriously injured, but his mother is given quite a fright. After tracking the perpetrators to a nearby golf course the two friends exact some comical revenge of the offending party, ending at the local police station. When Do-joon’s mother comes to pick him up she brings with her several sample size liquor bottles and distributes them to the officers, it seems a routine they’ve grown accustomed to, implying that Do-joon finds himself at odds with the law often. Later that night, after a bit of drinking Do-joon is walking home and stumbles upon a teenaged schoolgirl wandering the alleyways, he follows her for a bit until she enters an abandoned building. The next day she is found murdered, Do-joon quickly becomes a suspect, and is convicted soon thereafter. His mother, protective as ever, refuses to believe her naïve son is capable of the murder and embarks on a strange and revelatory journey to discover the truth about the killer. I don’t want to give a lot away because this is a fantastic film, and you need to see it. The characters in the film are strange, fascinating, flawed, and wonderful to watch. As the story unfolds there are revelations and developments that kept me rapt throughout the films 129 minutes, never once did the film drag, despite its subtle pace. As with the Host , Joon-Ho’s film is punctuated with quirky humor throughout, though to a lesser extent, this is a much deeper and resonating suspense film. The lengths to which Do-joon’s mother goes to disprove her son’s conviction are truly bizarre, heartfelt, and perhaps a bit mad as well. Along the way she encounters a cast of deranged character and potential suspects, eventually leading to a final, stunning revelation.
DVD: The Magnolia Pictures DVD of Mother is 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen aspect ratio with a 5.1 Korean language audio and English subtitles. Special Features include the Making of Mother, and four featurettes; Production Design, Cinematography, Supporting Actors, and a Music Score featurette. Unfortunately there’s no commentary, but the featurettes are interesting. The Ultimate Blu-Ray edition includes a Korean language commentary; I’m considering an upgrade myself for that alone.
VERDICT: Mother is a must-see film in my opinion. This is not a horror film, be forewarned, it is a thriller in the classic Hitchcockian vein. If you love thrillers like Deep End (2001) or A History of Violence (2005) I think you’ll love this film.
****1/2 (4.5 out of 5 stars)