Cinema Mishmash

A personal and random look at movies, past and present

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Mother

October 15th, 2009 · No Comments

mother2My favorite film from the 2009 Chicago International Film Festival, Bong Joon-Ho’s Mother, doesn’t so much defy classification as much as it conglomerates genres in a way that seems as unusual as it is natural. Those who have seen Bong’s 2006 sea monster romp, The Host, will sense an immediate familiarity with Bong’s blending of the poignant and the absurd. A beautiful opening sequence features actress Kim Hye-ja in a wind-swept autumnal field. But as the camera earnestly swirls in for a close-up of Kim’s deadpan expression, the soundtrack shifts and Kim begins an unexpected two-step, creating a moment you might expect to see on a DVD gag reel. Bong’s message is clear: expect just about anything over the next 2 hours.

What we get is one part irreverence-infused drama perfectly blended with one part high-tension thriller. And somehow, inexplicably, the moments of cheekiness and levity make the relationship between Kim’s mother character and her slow, quirky son (Won Bin) completely genuine, their ultimate journey utterly compelling. mother1The story goes something like this: in a small Korean city, a single mother makes a living as an herbalist and acupuncturist while doting on and protecting her only son, in his late teens and with some mild, unnamed mental deficit. A girl turns up murdered and the police officers, over their heads, tie the son to the killing. Thus begins the mother’s solitary quest to find the real killer and thus reunite with her son. What she discovers is more than she – or we – could have ever expected.

It isn’t often that writing about a film several days after seeing it continues to excite me. I hope that Mother, selected as South Korea’s entry for the 2010 Academy Awards, get a broader U.S. release soon. I’m looking forward to seeing it again.

Tags: Comedy · Director · Drama · Foreign Language · Review · Thriller

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