Movie Review – Mother (2009)

Joon-ho Bong directs the Koren mystery Mother. When a girl is murdered a young man with learning difficulties, Yoon Do-joon (Bin Won) is charged with the crime. His mother (Hye-ja Kim), convinced that he’s innocent tries to find the real killer so that her innocent son can go free. 

Mother is very highly rated on IMDB and it is a good film, but there are some things that appear random and lazy. There are a few things that happen that are convenient for the plot and there are some odd cuts that feel out of place. Some of the acting is not of the highest standard either. However, despite all of that Mother is a good mystery with some complex characters and good themes. I’m trying to make this as spoiler-free as possible so I may have to dance around a few things a bit, so if I ever appear too vague about certain elements of the film I apologize in advance. 

I found it to be quite slow-paced but the development of the mystery and the Mother’s investigation was interesting as she grew closer to the truth. It also uncovered a lot of truths about the community she lived in and I liked how all the clues came together in the end. The theme running through the story is that of the Mother’s relationship with Yoon Do-joon. I thought Bin Won’s portrayal struck the right balance of innocent naivete and vulnerability. As an audience we certainly empathized with Mother’s need to take care of him. However, there were a few shocking surprises about their relationship revealed through the duration of the film that add a layer of depth and nuance to the film, making it something more than just ‘parent protects child’. 

Some of the plot contrivances are obvious though. The most apparent is the police. They are so lazy it borders on the ridiculous and it’s not really a plot point in and of itself, it’s just there to move the film along and set up the conflict so the Mother has a reason to take the reins of the investigation herself. However, this did lead to some strong scenes between the parent and the child. 

I liked how more was revealed about the victim as Mother investigated the crime. It presented a gruesome reality that showed a darker side to the community. And I think that’s one of the main points of the film, that even though something can seem innocent and pure there is a darker surface lying underneath. There’s also commentary on what is justice and who deserves what punishment, and yes, the obvious ‘what would you do to protect your child?’ This isn’t Taken though.

Hye-ja Kim gave compelling performance as Mother. At first she seems sweet and innocent, if a little over-protective, but as we find out there’s far more lurking under the surface. It’s a really complex role that shows desperation, heartache, determination and above all, love. There was one scene towards the end when she finds out that another character doesn’t have a mother, and she breaks down crying. I thought this was incredibly powerful, and I interpreted it as that she knew that no-one would help this person in the way that she helped her own son.

The ending was quite poetic and foreshadowed through the rest of the film. I do think it will annoy and even baffle some people though, but I thought it fit well with the tone.

So Mother does have some problems and I don’t think it’s a perfect film. However, I do think the mystery is handled well and the truth is not obvious so it holds interest. I liked the acting, particularly Kim’s. Some of the technical issues with the script do bug me but overall I like how the story unfolds and even though it’s a little slow in some places the payoff is worth it. It’s one of those films that doesn’t seem that special while you’re watching it, but after it’s been completed you have a moment where you just have to sit there and feel a bit stunned. I’d definitely recommend it if you feel like you have the patience to get through an uneven beginning because it really is a good film with a lot of depth. 

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