Mother (Bong Joon-ho, 2009): Korea

Reviewed by Candice Field. Viewed at the AFI Film Festival 2009.

Mother, celebrated director Bong Joon-ho’s latest visual masterpiece, is sure to captivate each and every viewer who has the pleasure of seeing it. The film opens with a series of shots of an old woman frolicking through a beautiful field while dancing. While this particular scene has little (if anything) to do with the rest of the film, somehow, director Bong Joon-ho manages to embed the scene in harmoniously with the rest of his work. Mother portrays the often tumultuous relationship between an eternally devoted mother and her less than mentally apt son. Joon-ho manages to inspire an electrifying performance from all of the actors in the film. However actress Kim Hya-ja’s riveting depiction of a mother who will stop at nothing to save her beloved son, is truly the driving force behind the success of the picture. In the film Kim Hya-ja is forced to fight for the truth (or answers) after her full-grown son (with the mind of a young boy) is arrested and charged with the murder of a local girl. Hya-ja’s character pushes the limits of what we generally attribute to normal social behavior and even commits some rather moral compromising acts to secure her son’s freedom. Bong Joon-ho is clearly a master of all elements in film; everything from the setting, to costume and cinematography is perfect. Throughout the film Joon-ho succeeds in providing the audience with a successful interweaving of comedy and tension. Mother most definitely provides us with a dramatic peak into family breakdown and domestic bliss.

>As previously stated, Bong Joon-ho makes exceptional use of camera movement and angle throughout the film. The way in which he frames his actors and allows for the audience to focus on a slew of characters continuously throughout the film, leaving the viewer wanting more.  The timing of the film seems very well thought out, every scene has it’s desired effect. It’s as if Joon-ho timed each shot perfectly; each reaction shot etc. Clearly, each scene in the film is highly choreographed by the director, and beautifully sequenced and cut by the editor. The content and form of the film is almost revolutionary. Every scene in the film evokes an emotional reaction. While Bong Joon-ho defies many of the traditional conventions of film, he does so in a way that only contributes to the success of his picture (the development of characters and so forth). The film includes multiple musical sequences that keep the listener completely captivated. Mother is truly a film that will be talked about for years to come and deserves the extensive praise and credit it has received thus far. Bong Joon-ho’s Mother, is provocative, compelling and impossible to ignore.

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