Mother ★★★★

"If they hit you once..."
"Hit them back twice"

I've recently been on director Bong Joon-Ho's extraordinary filmography run lately, with one great film after another and 'Mother' is no different, albeit a little tone-down beast.

Continuing his fine form after the masterpiece that is 'Memories of Murder', Joon-Ho's signature dark-comic timing is still peppered throughout (that funeral scene being the major laugh-out-loud sequence and I know how inappropriate it is to even type that sentence) and the film-making style remains very nuanced. The film's sorta separated in this two juncture; the first half focuses the lead character who's this elderly woman, who owns a herbal shop in a little town (another one of Joon-Ho's fascination with small, tight-knit community town or village of sorts; he mainly keeps his story located outside of Korea's primary districts and major cities) while running an unlicensed acupuncture business on the side, and her desperate attempts to keep her mentally-challenged son out of jail after he's wrongfully-convicted of killing a teenage girl. The second half is this sorta odd narrative (in a good way) but a structural necessity, where she sets off on a one-woman investigation to uncover the actual murderer. One thing leads to another and let's just say you won't be disappointed with how clever it turns out. Not to mention how tragic it ultimately is.

I'm largely unfamiliar with the works of Kim Hye-ja, the actress who plays the titular role but I can tell she's a veteran at heart because she's plain spectacular in this role. Back in 2009, when the hype was building up for this film and gaining award traction along the way, I remembered reading up on her name, and this flick, popped up a couple of times and I'm blaming myself now for not paying more attention to this flick back then. From the absolutely surreal opening sequence where she sways and dances atop some hill to the background score (Yeah, it's as weird as it sounds but it'll all make sense along the way), her scene with the convicted murderer at the end (do expect some plain-old Korean mindfucks along the way), to the final scene at the bus; she owns every frame of this flick, the same goes to Won Bin, who plays her son Doo-Joon.

A perfect cinematic representation of how an act of devotion, responsibility, the unconditional love a mother could ever give to her son or the unforeseeable, extreme length one would go just to protect her own kin, 'Mother' captures all of that, and serves it in a good-old Korean pastiche where almost everything is dark, haunting, funny and pulled off with clever character observation and with its ever-effective twists along the way.

Whether bestowing this to your actual birth mother as a simple declaration of love and/or a Mother's Day gift - is entirely and still wholly up for debate. Otherwise though, it's another very solid effort by Joon-Ho. And with this, he's completely solidified as one of the best filmmakers working today.

And to think that he made 'Snowpiercer' after this...

Caproni liked these reviews