By William Wolf

NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL 2009 PRESENTS 'MOTHER'  Send This Review to a Friend

The enormous lengths to which a mother will go to save her son from prison are explored dramatically in “Mother,” a Korean film by the extremely talented director Bong Joon-ho. He is fortunate to have Kim Hye-ja in the title role, as she gives an extraordinary, moving performance that drives the unusual story.

Hye-ja plays a single mom who has a 27-year-old retarded son, Do-joon, played convincingly by Won Bin. He is a good lad, but gets angry when others make fun of him. One day the body of a murdered girl is found, and the police blame Do-joon, who is arrested. His mother can’t believe he did it, and even if she thought he did, she would still go to bat for him, judging by her crusade. The young man’s mother sets out to prove his innocence by discovering the real killer.

She faces a desperate situation, and as the film follows her efforts, we get abundant atmosphere involving police and an assortment of character types. The story unfolds as a mystery that builds to an ultimate revelation. But still, the film is left steeped in ambiguity with audiences left to ponder the ending.

The director, whom I encountered at a reception in his honor, spoke of the arguments that took place in Korea as to where the truth lay. The satisfaction of watching the film lies in the performances, the realism depicted and the exposé of how difficult it is to get authorities to look more closely at a case when a judgment has been made. Although the film is set in Korea, the problem is a universal one.


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