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Korean Film Directed By Joon-Ho Bong

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Mother knows best ... an exhiliratingly offbeat and dark new thriller from the director of "The Host" and "Memories of Murder"

  • Jul 24, 2010
When her mentally challenged son is charged with a brutal murder, his mother sets out to prove him innocent. When the ordinary channels fail her, she increasingly takes things into her own hands, and is not afraid to get those hands dirty.

While there are scores of films about fathers out to protect and avenge their children who have been victims of a crime, this is the first that I'm aware of in which it is the mother who is out to defend the accused. It is a rich and inventive and, also, dark story, beautifully filmed and directed with subtlety, that offers a fresh look at the police procedural film.

This offbeat new thriller is sustained by a remarkable performance on the part of the leading lady (Hye Ja Kim as "The Mother"); all the other performances are strong, but the at once resolute and unhinged performance of the mother is something I couldn't take my eyes off, from the opening scene where she wanders through a field towards the camera, solemn and serious and suddenly breaks into a dance, to the magical ending on a bus. As with his previous films, Bong Joon Ho manages to convey memories and subjective point of view with a great deal of subtlety, in simple but inventive ways (such as a quick pan to someone who isn't there in the current scene but is being remembered from before). Highly recommended for lovers of inventive cinema, that explores the boundaries of genre in intriguing ways.

The dvd includes a fascinating documentary about the making of "Mother," which offers not only an intriguing look at director Bong Joon Ho in action, but especially emphasizes the importance of mothers in Korean society. The various participants talk about their relationships with their mothers, and a recurring theme is their sense of duty and guilt for having failed to show them sufficient honor. Tellingly, the lead character asked his own mother whether she'd be willing to go to the same lengths for him as his fictional mother in the story, and she responded that she would go even further. Bong Joon Ho explains that the core idea for this story, like that of "The Host," came from an actual incident; the television interview with the aging mother of a fully-grown son, who was still living at home and had been accused of heinous crimes, left a deep impression. There are additional featurettes on the supporting actors, the production design, the music and the cinematography.

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July 29, 2010
As an Asian-American myself, I can attest to the strong bonds between mother and son that I beleive are unlike those of other ethnicities. I was intrigued by your review of the movie, and I thought that your analysis was thoought-provoking.
July 27, 2010
Yes! I am about to see this also. Great review! Welcome to the site and Thank you very much for joining the MOVIE HYPE community! Please feel free to message me if you have any questions, Nathan. We are looking forward to reading all your new reviews.
More Mother (Korean film) reviews
review by . September 14, 2010
posted in ASIANatomy
A Mother's Love Knows No Bounds
South Korea’s highest grossing film is the monster film “The Host” directed by Bong Joon-Ho. Sure, “The Host” wasn’t a film for everyone, but it was quite inventive in the way it sidestepped the usual devices of monster films. Well, one wouldn’t be hard-pressed to expect another ‘monster’ hit from Bong (well, there is its coming sequel), but for his latest film, the director instead goes for a film that follows the footsteps of his 2003 hit “Memories …
About the reviewer
Nathan Andersen ()
Ranked #18
I teach philosophy at Eckerd College, in Saint Petersburg, Florida.      I run an award-winning International Cinema series in Tampa Bay (, and am co-director of … more
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  • Mother
  • Opened March 12, 2010
  • R
    violence, some sexual content, language and drug use

    Just as South Korean director Bong Joon-ho's previous film,The Host, subverted the traditions of the giant monster movie to examine the effects of a crisis on a unique family, his latest effort,Mother, embraces the tropes of the murder mystery for an unsettling and affecting story of parental love taken to its extreme. Popular South Korean television actress Kim Hye-ja gives a powerful performance as a downtrodden acupuncturist whose mentally challenged son (Korean A-lister Won Bin) is accused of murdering a local schoolgirl. Bullied into a confession by the local police (led by Yoon Je-moon ofThe Host), the young man faces incarceration at a mental hospital unless his mother can discover the killer's true identity. Her inquiry leads her into classic noir territory, with perceived truths blown apart at every turn; in typical Joon-ho fashion, these discoveries are marked by moments of shocking violence, dark slapstick humor, and moving familial drama, which come together in a genuinely unique perspective on the nature of truth and commitment. The official South Korean submission for Best Foreign Language Film at the 82nd Academy Awards,Motheris yet another entry on a growing list of exceptional motion pictures from one of the international scene's most intriguing filmmakers.--Paul Gaita

  • Hye-ja is a single mom to 27-year-old Do-joon. Her son is her raison ...
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