SciFi Japan

    Review: Bong Joon-ho`s MOTHER

    Suspense thriller arrives in U.S. theaters March 12 Author: Richard Pusateri Source: Magnolia Pictures Official Movie Site: (US), (Korea) Special Thanks to Marina Bailey

    Director Bong Joon-ho (THE HOST) brings the Hitchcock flavor to MOTHER. First, well, it`s called "MOTHER" and takes maternal issues and other family matters to a length not seen in Alfred Hitchcock`s movies. It also has a "wrong man" theme, more than one McGuffin, a little voyeurism, a lot of suspense and several plot twists. In true Hitchcock style, some macabre sequences are delivered with a reserved humor. Several small objects with large significance flit in and out of the story; sometime shifting their significance with each appearance, in one case disappearing (or was its importance all my imagination?) and in another instance providing the story`s resolution. Comparison to the works of the Master of Suspense Hitchcock, should in no way diminish Bong`s achievement in MOTHER. MOTHER is a thoroughly engaging and satisfying film experience. There are almost no weak spots and the viewer remains focused on Mother`s obsessive quest. This movie is much more than a suspenseful crime drama. Overall, the universally enduring bond of love between a mother and her child is depicted with a subtle but insistent subversion for our entertainment, delivered with a gently twisted Hitchcockian touch. Bong delivers a thoroughly entertaining and technically accomplished movie that keeps the pace up with shocks and surprises. The opening sequence introduces the three main characters, establishes Mother`s bond with her son and immediately delivers the first of many shocking surprises. The claustrophobic nature of the opening sequences conveys Mother`s preoccupation with devotion to her son and the reasons for that near-obsession. There is no rest for Mother as her son is involved in a minor traffic accident that triggers the first brush with the law, and setting up the situations that will eventually find him accused of murder. Soon Mother is plunged into a desperate search of her son`s hidden life in order to find clues to the identity of the real murderer. While these details initially seem somewhat confusing or distracting, the events remain riveting as the story is fleshed out and facts are gradually revealed.

    As the story unfolds, the viewer is pulled along, aware of apparently true details but eventually being clearly informed of the actual facts as they come to light. The discoveries of details of her son`s life do not distract from the plot`s "whodunit" mystery, but add dimension to Mother`s increasing anxiety as the case seems to become farther from her ability to solve it. The relationships that Mother uncovers between her son and his companions, school mates and his nightlife add to her agitation as she struggles to clear his name. In case the reader has noticed these descriptions of MOTHER are vague, that`s what this reviewer has in mind. The simple plot begins with Do-joon (Won Bin), an intellectually challenged young man, being accused of murder and seemingly railroaded by the legal system. His overly-protective, single parent mother (Kim Hye-ja) sets out to prove him innocent. She becomes an amateur detective with few means to accomplish the vindication of her son. There are so many twists and shifts here, many things are just not what they seem and almost any concrete details might be spoilers. Suffice to say, Mother is constrained in her quest by limited resources, obstacles of the legal system and the confining nature of small town society. The simplicity of the premise is established early and the viewer stays hooked as the developments grow mysterious and surprising, without becoming confusing or needlessly extraneous. The suspense is masterfully sustained by the audience knowing what is going on, but not knowing what is coming next. MOTHER is a visual treat. Many of the cinematic compositions convey the confines of the small town locales, wherein many characters know each other and inadvertently stumble into situations. The imagery is consistently engaging whether in simple, engrossing claustrophobic close-ups or gorgeous landscapes. Many close ups add detail to the narrative in Hitchcock style.

    The most outstanding component of MOTHER is the tremendous acting of the star Kim Hye-ja. Kim amplifies the Mother`s already nervous condition with progressively aggravating situations. She sees her son as a victim by nature of his mental impairment and being taken advantage of by of the small town society. As her son is railroaded by the emotionally detached police and ineffective attorney, Mother becomes increasingly agitated and desperate. Kim is in nearly every scene and conveys the character`s constant sorrow and simmering rage dealing with her son`s unfortunate situation. Kim keeps Mother`s sorrowful burden displayed with controlled energy as she grows increasingly agitated by the frustrations and shocking details of life in the small town. Kim does not let Mother`s increasing frustration go over the top. In a few scenes she radiates an enigmatic tranquility as if she can envision a successful ending to her struggles. Revealing much more detail about the main characters or the events that churn around them would risk spoiling the film`s impact. This impeccably constructed movie will be a treat for viewers who enjoy crisp mysteries with odd humor.

    For more information on MOTHER please see the earlier coverage here on SciFi Japan:

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