Movies: Mother * * * *
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.
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.