Any child knows the power of a mother’s love. An unconditional, ever-forgiving love that is never challenged. But what about when the child is the prime suspect in a homicide case?
This is the synopsis of 2009 Korean thriller, “Mother.” Do-Joon is an adult in his early twenties with an intellectual disability who quickly becomes the scapegoat when a young girl is murdered and he was the last person seen at the scene of the crime. As the only person sure of his innocence, his mother embarks on a quest to clear his name.
For those afraid to venture out of their comfort zone, this Korean language film is highly worth the chance. Director Bong Joon-Ho (perhaps better known to Western audiences as the man behind Snowpiercer) magically crafts a murder mystery around Kim Hye-Ja, the superstar behind the title character.
Kim was such an integral part of the film that Bong Joon-Ho said that he would not have made the movie if she had not accepted the role. Won Bin plays a youthful and convincing Do-Joon and Jin Gun supports the pair as Jin Tae, Do-Joon’s friend.
According to Bong, the idea was born out of a news report that he saw that told of an elderly man who adopted young girls from China and molested them before he sent them back. His mother lived in the house these events occurred and in one interview, she stated that she believed her son’s side of the story that he was innocent.
It was then Bong decided to write a story of how far a mother’s love could go. An avid fan of Kim’s, he also noticed that she had never played a role like this and wanted to create one that showcased her potential.
From the visual layout of the movie, to the writing, to the acting – every aspect is superb. Bong utilizes a variety of camera angles that are not commonplace in mainstream films. As a result, from the beginning the movie separates itself from the pack. These framing choices also serve as subtle hints to important plot points throughout the film, as one video essay notes.
As it is classified as a noir thriller, the movie is a little less action packed, at least initially, and is nestled more in the mystery element. The first few minutes are used to establish an exposition, which is basically just getting a feel for the characters and the setting.
Once Mother finds her son accused of the crime, the audience follows her journey as she fights tooth and nail to get the answers of what happened that night and to ultimately prove Do-Joon’s innocence. In the end, both Mother and the audience learn to make peace with the consequences of searching for questions that sometimes are better left unanswered.