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  • 15
  • Crime, Thriller
  • 2009




A classy thriller from South Korean director Joon-ho Bong, starring Kim Hye-Ja as a mother determined to clear her son's name


With Mother, writer-director Joon-ho Bong (The Host, Memories Of Murder) helps maintain the reputation of contemporary South Korean cinema for oddity and excellence with a blackly comic murder mystery that dances around social mores, genuine tragedy and blind loyalty, guided by a piercing eye for the absurd.

The matriarch of the title is devoted to her simple son, Do-joon (Bin Won), whose strangeness is never identified as a specific mental disorder, a shrewd move that stops us from classifying him and making him a victim or monster according to our own prejudices. When a teenage girl is murdered by a mystery assailant, the local community is up in arms, convinced of Do-Joon's guilt. Even he seems to think it might be true. But Mother knows best, and she'll be damned if she's not going to get to the bottom of things.

It's this relatively straightforward set-up that provides a framework for some delicately observed satire realised via lush, confident visuals. You'll hear the term Hitchcockian bandied about in reference to this film. The score, together with a certain detached amusement at mankind's follies, backs this up, but in other respects this film belongs to its director more than its influences. If Bongian isn’t a word yet, it will be.

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Bin Won, Ku Jin
  • Director: Joon-Ho Bong
  • Writer: Joon-Ho Bong
  • Producer: Jae-Won Choi
  • Photographer: Kyung-Pyo Hong

In a nutshell

A deceptively simple and humorous tale with wonderfully nasty flashes of violence that feel entirely real. Kim Hye-Ja's performance as the title character is just one reason to fall for this expertly executed piece of filmmaking.

by Catherine Bray

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