Written by Caroline Doyle
02 Monday 02nd August 2010

In Mother, Bong Joon-ho focuses on the eponymous character who is immediately recognizable to all, then places her in an impossible situation so that the most primal instincts for the protection and preservation of her child overtake her desire to conform to the norms of accepted civilised society. It is a powerful and affecting film which will stay with you long after the lights go up again. You will feel a new respect for your own mother, though perhaps be a little wary of getting on her wrong side.

It is an incredible and intense film showing the fierce determination of a mother to protect her son. Do-joon is an adult with the mind of a child, and Hye-ja tirelessly works to keep him safe in a world which so easily finds fault with him, but cannot recognise it in itself. From inept police officers to corrupt officials and morally dubious youths, the small town acts as a catalyst for gossip and prejudices, persecuting Do-joon for his naivety whilst revelling in their own barely hidden vice and corruption.
Do-joon is accused of killing a young girl who he was seen to be following home after a night of drinking when she is found dead propped on the roof of a deserted house. Mistreated and threatened by the police, he signs a confession and is sent to prison.
Never once believing her son guilty, petite and mild mannered Hye-ja appeals to the powers that be to see that a miscarriage of justice doesn’t occur. On realising the corrupt, cynical, selfish nature of those supposed to be helping her, she takes it upon herself to find the true killer and prove her son innocent.
It is now we see the true strength of this tired, passionate woman as she goes against all the accepted archetypes of the maternal figure to care and nurture, in order to single-mindedly protect her child, no matter how it will affect society.
In the beginning we see Hye-ja cut her fingers because she’s too busy looking out for her son than watching the knife she is cutting with. She is a woman for whom the blood of her son is far more precious than her own, or anyone else’s for that matter.
It’s a film that initially offers some light relief in the form of slapstick and humour, but that towards the end makes the whole world look a little nice. Raising uncomfortable questions about the nature of a relationship everyone knows, it becomes difficult to know who to sympathise with and who to trust. This is a horror of the most unsettling kind – the kind with human monsters.
Mother is released on August 20.


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