Saturday 3 December 2016

Movies: Mother * * * *

(Club, IFI)

Paul Whitington

Published 20/08/2010 | 05:00

Mother is a drama of Shakespearean proportions
Mother is a drama of Shakespearean proportions

As he has already proved with his wonderfully inventive horror film The Host, Bong Joon-ho is one of the most gifted and intuitive filmmakers working in South Korea today, which given that country's remarkable wealth of cinematic talent, is really saying something.

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In Mother, he brings us a drama of positively Shakespearean proportions, and a film so full of visual ideas and exuberance that it alternately delights, and tests your patience. And at its heart is a truly mesmerising performance from veteran actress Kim Hye-ja.

She is the mother in question, a seemingly humble but redoubtable parent whose overprotectiveness of her only son has perhaps not best prepared him for this cruel and indifferent world.

In any case, Do-joon is mentally slow and seems to exist in a state of permanent bewilderment. His mother endlessly frets over him, and although he must be all of 20 they still sleep in the same bed.

When Do-joon is struck by a passing Mercedes, the hit-and-run sets in motion a chain of events that leads to the murder of a local high school girl. Do-joon is implicated and it seems an open-and-shut case, but Mother refuses to believe he can have done it, and moves heaven and earth to prove that he is innocent.

At once a murder mystery, a sort of comedy and a grim psychological drama, Mother manages to keep several balls in the air at once thanks to Bong Joon-ho's sublime skill and the sheer power of Kim Hye-ja's performance.

In her wonderfully expressive face, we see all the suffering of the universal mother, but also the dreadful tunnel vision that can make a parent monstrous.

It's a brilliant, nuanced portrayal, and the high point of a fine film that only hesitates about when and where to finish.

Irish Independent

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