Worth A Look: 42.86%
Just Average: 0%
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4 reviews, 4 user ratings
If you were to stumble into one of South Korean director Bong Joon-Ho movies at different moments during their running times, you wouldn’t be sure if you had walked into a crime drama, a monster movie, an engrossing character study or a comedy. Ironically, that’s what makes them amazing.In the same movie, he can effortlessly juggle pathos, horror and explosive humor. With “The Host,” for example he made a convincingly scary Godzilla-like monster movie that was also a touching and hilarious look at a dysfunctional family.
"Great filmmakers don’t stick to formulas."
His latest, “Mother,” also deals with domestic discord but manages to move it in delightfully unexpected directions. From the first moments, it’s hard to tell where Bong and his co-screenwriter Park Eun-kyo are going to take us, but the results are sure to be breathtaking.
The film begins with a man named Yoon Do-Joon (Bin Won) almost being killed by a speeding Mercedes on its way to a golf course. His widowed Mother (Hye-ja Kim), who runs an unlicensed acupuncture shop across from the accident scene, injures herself rushing to help him. From their first moments together, it’s obvious their relationship is more than odd. She speaks with him as if he were still a child.
Mentally, he still is. When he and a pal head to the golf course to get revenge on the driver (not a golf club) who came inches from ending his life, Do-Joon keeps forgetting to hunt down the negligent motorists and wanders through a pond collecting all the golf balls in it. What he’ll do with them is uncertain.
When Do-Joon gets into serious legal trouble after finally remembering to seek vengeance against the hit and run motorists, Mother pulls out every stop she can think of to help Do-Joon get out of his mess. In less than a day, her struggle becomes more Herculean.
The next morning Do-Joon finds himself in jail for the murder of a teenage girl. The evidence against him is circumstantial but incriminating. One of his purloined golf balls is found at the crime scene, and he made unintentionally lewd remarks about her hours before her death.
It’s easy to conclude that his remarks were unintentional because Do-Joon has no understanding of sexuality. It quickly becomes obvious he’s a virgin. When asked if he’s slept with a woman, he proudly declares he’s shard a bed with Mother. The two share the mat simply out of necessity (she’s short of money), not forbidden desire.
Sure that her son could never have committed the crime, Mother begins a massive investigation of the girl’s death. She uncovers dozens of clues that indicate the police have closed their case prematurely. But Bong and Hye-ja manage to do more than simply turn “Mother” from a black comedy to a murder mystery. They miraculously put viewers in the confusing mind of the title character.
The more we follow her, the more we begin to wonder if she’s fearlessly trying to protect her innocent son or if she’s so delusional she can’t bring herself to admit that he’s dangerous and possibly guilty of the crime. Just when viewers think they’re close to a solution, Bong and Park deliver yet another eerie surprise. The two manage to wrap the film up credibly, but up until the end, we’re just as bewildered as Mother. Gradually, we also learn why Do-Joon and mother act so oddly.
“Mother” is full of fascinatingly shady characters, but Hye-ja easily dominates the movie. Mother is a larger-than-life creation that the actress makes astonishingly real. Her boundless love and good intentions are frequently undone by her unswerving belief that she’s right.Some viewers might find Bong’s inability to settle on a genre or tone maddening, but I for one hope he never makes up his mind on what kind of movies he’s making.
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originally posted: 05/21/10 18:38:08
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2009 Chicago International Film Festival For more in the 2009 Chicago International Film Festival series, click here.