What would you do to save your child? Anything? Would you believe they were innocent when everyone else tells you they are guilty? Would you help cover it up if you found out the awful truth? Would you kill to protect your child? These are just some of the difficult questions that director Bong Joon-Ho asks in his new film, "Mother." The South Korean director who first gained notice in 2006 for his monster movie, "The Host," hits a home run with his dark and disturbing follow up film. The movie plays out somewhat like a detective movie with a bit of a film-noir feel and it plays with the tone of the film nicely. Ho sets the mood perfectly and his blend of awkward humor and disturbing sequences goes a long way to painting the picture of this desperate woman.
Actress Kim Hye-Kyo who plays the mother is absolutely amazing in her role, frighteningly so. You believe every thing that she does and no matter how insane the action is she performs you can't help but feel for this poor woman and her unfortunate situation. The film is heartbreakingly real and is one of the most powerful films that you will see in a theater this year. Ho uses the backdrop of South Korea like a canvas to paint his story. The cold mountains and steaming smoke work beautifully to add to the despair of the small community where the story takes place. The movie has many twists and turns in the film and the pay offs are set up to perfection.
The film begins by introducing us to Do-joon played exceptionally well by Won Bin. Do-joon is in his late '20s but has the IQ of a child and lives in a shack of a home with his Mother (Hye-Kyo), a widow who takes care of him and either is unaware or chooses not to notice that her son is slow. Do-joon's only friend is a local thug named Jin-tae played with icy steel by Jin Goo. Mother is afraid that her son will get in trouble hanging out with Jin-tae and discourages him from doing so but he doesn't listen. One day Do-joon and Jin-tae get into some trouble with the law, then later when a young school girl is discovered dead, the police blame Do-joon, due to circumstantial evidence and arrest him. Unable to defend him self, Mother fears the worst for her son and knows in her heart that he is incapable of murder. With no one believing in her son's innocents, except his one true friend Jin-tae the two team-up to solve the mystery them selves and free Do-joon. However, what Mother will discover about her son may shock her and how she deals with the truth once it is revealed will definitely shock you.
I don't want to give anything away about the ending because I certainly didn't see it coming but the twists and turns in this little mystery are definitely well crafted and very unique. What is really interesting about this film is the characters and how real they are. You completely feel Mother's desperation to free her son and the credit all goes to Kim Hye-ja for crafting such a sympathetic character, even though she ends up doing some questionable things we never stop sympathizing with her actions. I really enjoyed the mystery aspect of the film, which is also extremely well crafted. Won Bin's performance is also an important element to the film's success and he does an excellent job of gaining our sympathy, which adds to the shock of the film's twists as they occur. It reminded me a bit of Ed Norton's performance in "Primal Fear."
But what is really remarkable about this film is Kim Hye-ja's performance and the way her character is affected when she discovers the truth and the lengths that she will go to free her son. They say love is blind and this film would certainly demonstrate that that is true. Bong Joon-ho paints a beautiful and sad picture with this film. The tone and mood of the movie is grey, overcast, damp and depressing, which allows the audience to be automatically transported into Mother's sad and lonely world. In the end, Mother is a glorious film, sad and difficult to watch at times but fascinating in it's display of human nature and the will to survive. You will be affected by the power of this movie and its message while at the same time be thoroughly entertained by the film's appealing murder-mystery storyline.