When one settles in for a Joon-ho Bong film, they probably never know what to expect. What they should definitely find is an extraordinarily entertaining two hours passing by. After bringing his name some stateside attention with The Host in 2006, he’s now brought his quirky brand of filmmaking joy to a different genre – the revenge thriller – with Mother.
As great as his sense of filmmaking is, and as sharp and intricately plotted as the film is, everything mostly comes together so well thanks to Mother’s star, Hye-ja Kim. There’s been talk about an American remake around the water coolers in Hollywood lately and it’s not surprising; there have also been talks about a remake of The Host as well.
While this would no doubt be a great vehicle to bring about an Oscar-worthy performance, why not leave well enough alone and just bring the deserved exposure to the original? Don’t try to fix what’s not broken. What Joon-ho Bong has created here is an exceptional drama layered with rich and dark thriller elements while enlightened by bursts of offbeat and hilarious moments of real humor. The opening sequence with Hye-ja Kim walking up to the camera alone in a field and beginning to dance springs instantly to mind.
Mother (Kim) lives a quiet life with her son, Yoon Do-joon (Bin Won). That is until Do-joon is struck by a car in the street and Do-joon follows the car with his best friend Jin-tae (Ku Jin) to a golf course because (as Jin-tae points out) that’s the only place a white Mercedes Benz could possibly be headed. After Jin-tae kicks off their rearview mirror and they proceed to gang up on the golfers, they all wind up at the local police station.
When one of the golfers calls Do-joon a “retard,” he erupts into a fit of violence and later we come to find out that Mother has always told him to defend himself whenever belittled. Back at home, Mother asks Do-joon why he hasn’t been taking his medicine and she force -feeds said meds while he’s urinating against a wall. Do-joon takes off for the evening to meet up with Jin-tae at a bar where Jin-tae never shows up. Heading home in a drunken stupor, Do-joon spies a short skirted high school girl walking alone and proceeds to follow her. After she ignores his advances Do-joon carries on home for the night where he shares a bed with Mother.
The next morning a girl is found murdered and all signs of evidence immediately point to Do-joon including a golf ball with his name written on it. Arrested by another family friend, Je-mun (Yoon Jae-Moon), Do-joon is thrown in prison and Mother is convinced of Do-joon’s innocence even reminding Je-mun that her son would never even hurt so much as a fly.
After Mother sneaks into Jin-tae’s home and finds a golf club with what she believes to be blood on it she takes it to the police but the blood is dismissed for lipstick and Jin-tae sneaks into Mother’s home and while seeking his own revenge, proceeds to offer Mother detective advice which leads her on a quest to seek out the truth behind clearing her son’s name.
A lot of movies feed their audience too much information and offer far too much exposition in the final third of their films or tries to pull a twist ending that doesn’t make any sense. While in some cases the exposition can bog down the plot or feel like it’s pandering to its audience the twists are usually forgiven if the film earns its keep. The less said about the twists and turns of Mother the better. But it has to be said that the performance given by Hye-ja Kim is one to be reckoned with.
Joon-ho Bong has completely earned his ending and it even makes sense. Just when you think you know the whole story, something else comes along and bops you upside the head. While some could be confused with the ending if they’re not paying attention, everything makes complete sense and could make a second viewing a most rewarding experience.
Joon-ho pulled the same one over with The Host and while most may think it’s just your average monster movie, the more you’ve seen it, the more you realize just how layered it really is. Joon-ho’s films are very layered and you don’t realize how great the dessert until you’ve tried them all and I can’t wait until I get to have another go at Mother.
Photo courtesy Magnolia Pictures