Mother
Just keep her on that side of the glass and we’ll have no problems.

Theatrical Release Date: 03/19/2010 (USA), 05/28/2009 (South Korea)
Director: Bong Joon-ho
Cast: Kim Hye-ja, Bin Won, Goo Jin, Yoon Jae-Moon, Mi-sun Jun, Lee Young-Suck, Song Sae-Beauk, Na Mun-hee, Chun Woo-hee

No, this isn’t a biopic on the band Danzig, “Mother” is a Korean film from director Bong Joon-ho (“The Host“). This time around though, instead of using a monster movie to talk about family, he’s using family to talk about the monster within us all.

A mother (Kim Hye-ja) worries and dotes over her son (Bin Won), who is developmentally challenged. He runs around with a friend she considers a bad influence and after one drunken night, is accused of a young girl’s murder. With little help from the police who consider it a open and shut case, Kim proceeds to do anything and everything she can to clear her son’s name.

Kim presents a remarkably strong performance as the central and title character. This isn’t a simple tale of a mother’s love for a child. She has demons in her past that will rise up over the course of the film and the lengths to which she must go in order to protect her son test every fiber of her being.

For his part, Won does a remarkable job portraying the son. His take on a simple, innocent man-child (in terms of character, not necessarily guilt) is done quite well. While his mother fills in the stares and silent responses for herself, it’s a blank slate that the audience must try to read, even though it will be futile.

There is an attempt by Joon-ho to shroud the guilty party by presenting a number of possible murderers but I found it as easy to figure out as a TV cop drama. Still, the strength of the film isn’t in keeping the audience guessing about who did it, but about how far a mother will go. To that end, the production was a remarkable success.

From a film making perspective, “Mother” delivers the good and earns a 4 out of 5. The performances are strong and it was interesting to see Joon-ho deliver a mystery/drama in an almost horror film format. I wasn’t too surprised by any of the events but can see why the film garnered so much acclaim internationally and was South Korea’s entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the 82nd Academy Awards (though it did not make the final cut, I’d place it above one or two of the others that did).