Movie Review – Broker

Broker (2022)
Written & Directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda

I was blown away by Shoplifters, filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda’s 2018 movie about a family of outcasts who find solace in each other from an often cruel world. It was my first encounter with the writer/director, and his attention to humanism was a wonderful thing to experience. This meant I was pretty excited to watch Broker, and I can’t say my expectations were met. Broker is not a bad movie, but it doesn’t reach the heights of Shoplifters. Nevertheless, we still get a remarkable story about another found family that has to face reality in the end and find some way to hold the love they had for each other while the world pulls them apart. Once again, Kore-eda shows us that the most compelling stories to be told are ones about humans and their complicated relationships with each other.

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Patron Pick – The World of Us

This is a special reward available to Patreon patrons who pledge at the $10 or $20 a month levels. Each month those patrons will get to pick a film for me to review. They also get to include some of their own thoughts about the movie, if they choose. This Pick comes from Matt Harris.

The World of Us (2016)
Written & Directed by Yoon Ga-eun

South Korean cinema consistently surprises me with how well-made it is. It shouldn’t because I’ve been seeking out and watching Korean films for around 14 years. Because movies are so dominated by American-made fare, it’s easy to forget how excellent other cultures are at producing films. The World of Us was a movie that was nowhere near my radar until suggested by Matt as his Patron Pick for December 2021. I did a little research before watching it, and it’s a film cited by Bong Joon-ho when asked about contemporary movies from his country that he recommends. I had no real idea what to expect but knew this would likely be another fantastic picture.

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Movie Review – Minari

Minari (2020)
Written & Directed by Lee Isaac Chung

I personally find the American Dream to be a complete fantasy, and it basically always was. This fantasy of bootstrap independence leading to wealth & success is a myth. People achieve wealth in the United States on the backs of workers who toil for very little. Now, this is what our culture labels as “success,” but I would that most of us know that the acquisition of money, while definitely alleviating stress tied to providing for our families, crosses a line at some point into exploitation. I would like to define success as creating a life collectively with family and friends. But for so many native-born people and immigrants, the allure of that capitalist myth is so strong they get lost in it and become consumed.

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Import Fridays – Mother (2009)

Mother (2009, dir. Joon-ho Bong)
Starring Hye-ja Kim, Bin Won, Ku Jin, Yoon-jae Moon

The premise of Joon-Ho Bong’s Mother doesn’t seem to be anything out of the ordinary from any other murder mystery flick: A concerned mother whose mentally disabled son is accused of murder decides she will pursue the case the police refuse to and find her son innocent. In the hands of Joon-Ho Bong, whose 2006 film The Host similarly played with genre expectations, this becomes a taught Hitchcock-style thriller.

Mother (she is never given a formal name in the film) is fiercely protective of her son, Do-joon. Do-joon still sleeps in the bed as Mother and relies on her for his day to day survival. His friend Jin-tae manipulates Do-joon and uses him to escape from trouble, knowing the boy won’t understand what is happening. One night, Do-joon arrives home late and drunk, the next morning the police arrest him in the murder of a local teenage girl. Mother makes it her duty to prove her son’s innocence.

Hye-Ja Kim delivers a magnificent performance as Mother. She is small and timid, yet when circumstances call for it she is a force to be reckoned with. Yet she is never unrealistic. The things Mother does are all things a frail middle-aged woman would be capable of. That fragility and humanity is what makes the character so compelling. The audience knows that if she truly comes up against a murderous, powerful force she is not going to get away. In that way, the film offers wonderful counter-programming to American cinema which commonly seeks to mythologize its protagonists by turning them into people capable of supernatural feats. Even in our most “realistic” contemporary cinema, we are commonly given moments that force to ignore their implausibility.

If you have never seen Korean cinema before, then I would recommend starting with this, or The Host even. Joon-Ho Bong is a director who walks that fine line between commercial and artistic film perfectly. He creates enough tension that it pulls us in, and the payoffs to the tension never feel dishonest. The film is also clever, in the same way Mother would have to be to navigate the dangerous journey she is on. The climax of the film and its mystery will leave you stunned and completely flip your perceptions of the characters in the story. A definite must see!