Monday, April 20, 2015

Mother (2009 film)

Directed by Bong Joon-ho and screenplay by Joon-ho and Park Eun-jyo from a story by Joon-ho, Madeo (Mother) is the story of a woman who becomes very protective of her shy, mentally-challenged son when he becomes accused of murder as she seeks to find the truth. The film is a strange and dark story that relates to a mother helping out her adult son as she copes with what he might’ve done while trying to see if something else really happened. Starring Kim Hye-ja and Won Bin. Madeo is an eerie yet evocative film from Bong Joon-ho.

When a young, mentally-challenged man who has trouble remembering things is accused of murdering a young woman. The man’s middle-aged mother comes to his aid to see if he really did kill this woman as she goes on her own journey to seek the truth once the police and a lawyer she hired were either unable or disinterested in helping them. It’s a film that is a simple mystery-drama but it’s also a film about a complex mother-son relationship where a woman has been raising her adult son who isn’t able to comprehend the things he does as Do-joon (Won Bin) does odd things like collect golf balls with his trouble-making friend Jin-tae (Jin Goo). For Do-joon’s mother (Kim Hye-ja), she is convinced that Jin-tae is absolute trouble as she would immediately suspect him for the murder of this young schoolgirl that Do-joon is accused of.

The film’s screenplay is quite loose in terms of its structure and narrative as it more plays into the journey this woman would take to find out the truth. Even as she constantly asks her son various questions about what happened that night yet he has a hard time remembering. While the police believe that he is the killer and the mother hires an attorney that is more concerned with giving Do-joon a reduced sentence instead of proving his innocence. The lack of effort only prompts the mother to find the truth yet things are very complicated as she copes with her son in jail as it is the focus of the film’s first half as well as initially suspecting Jin-tae. The film’s second half becomes more about the victim and what was she doing on the night she was killed as things become more complex as the mother may have proof that her son didn’t do it as there are those that did want this young girl dead because of her seedy reputation.

Bong Joon-ho’s direction is quite mesmerizing not just in its locations where it’s set in these rural city areas near mountains and fields but also in the way Joon-ho captures these moments that are entrancing to watch. Even in some of the simplest moments in some of his close-ups on the characters and how he frames them as it plays into a woman constantly in worry as well as trying to see if there’s some justice. Joon-ho’s approach to wide and medium shots along with tracking and dolly shots not only play into some of the drama but also suspense as it relates to the mother’s search for the truth. Joon-ho’s approach to suspense definitely plays into unconventional rhythms as he is more about uncovering these intricate moments of suspense while using bits of flashbacks to unveil clues and such.

Joon-ho usage of flashbacks as it relates to what happened in the murder not only plays into the mother’s own understanding of what she is encountering but also some of the bigger questions into what really happened. Especially when the mother meets this mysterious man she had previously encountered as he is either involved or knows something. Some of the images that Joon-ho would create play into some of the drama and sense of terror while there’s also some elements of black comedy. Even as it relates to Do-joon and his antics while he also takes great offense to being called a “retard” which also plays into what might’ve happened. For the mother, it forces her to face some realities she didn’t want to deal with but also cope with the severity of what happened on that night. Overall, Joon-ho creates a gripping yet intoxicating film about a mother trying to prove her son’s innocence over a murder.

Cinematographer Hong Kyung-pyo does amazing work with the film‘s cinematography with its usage of lights for some of the film‘s nighttime interior/exterior scenes with some naturalistic looks for some of the daytime scenes and the settings in the forests. Editor Moon Sae-kyung does brilliant work with the editing with stylish usage of jump-cuts and dissolves to play into the drama and suspenseful moments of the film. Production designer Ryu Seong-hie does excellent work with the look of the home that Do-joon and his mother live in along with the building rooftop the girl’s body was found.

Costume designer Choi Se-yeon does nice work with the costumes as it‘s very casual for the look of the characters including the mother. Visual effects supervisor Yi Zeon-Hyoung does terrific work with some of the minimal visual effects that relate to some of the violence that occurs in the film. Sound designer Cho Ye-jin does fantastic work with the sound to play into the suspense and terror that looms in the film along with key moments that play into the drama. The film’s music by Lee Byung-woo is incredible for its somber yet lush orchestral score that plays into the suspense and drama along with some themes for the latter as it relates to the mother.

The film’s superb cast include some notable small roles from Yoon Je-moon as a detective leading the case who knows Do-joon, Mun Hee-ra as the young woman Ah-jeong who would be killed, Kim Gin-goo as the girl’s grandmother, Yeo Moo-yeong as the lawyer hired to help Do-joon, Chun Woo-hee as a young student that Do-joon and Jin-tae know, Jeon Mi-seon as a friend of the mother who helps her in the case, and Lee Young-suck as a mysterious man whom the mother encountered on a rainy day. Jin Goo is excellent as Do-joon’s friend Jin-tae who is this troublemaker that the mother initially suspects as he plays a key part into solving the mystery over what happened.

Won Bin is brilliant as Do-joon as this mentally-challenged young man who isn’t sure what happened on the night he was suspected of murder as it’s a role that is a bit comical but it’s more serious as it plays into someone trying to remember. Finally, there’s Kim Hye-ja in a phenomenal performance as the titular character as this woman who does acupunctures and cuts herbs who tries to figure out if her son is innocent as it’s a very eerie and intoxicating performance to watch.

Madeo is an outstanding film from Bong Joon-ho that features a riveting lead performance from Kim Hye-ja. The film isn’t just a compelling suspense-drama but also a film that plays into a mother trying to find the truth about her son. Especially as she faces a world where she is forced to take matters into her own hands. In the end, Madeo is a sensational film from Bong Joon-ho.

Bong Joon-ho Films: Barking Dogs Never Bite - Memories of Murder - The Host (2006 film) - Tokyo!-Shaking Tokyo - Snowpiercer - Okja - Parasite - The Auteurs #44: Bong Joon-ho

© thevoid99 2015


Dell said...

Mother is an excellent film. Kim hye-ja is just terrific in the lead role. We really feel for her every step of the way. I've seen three of this director's movies and like them all. The Host and Snowpiercer are the other two. Need to rewatch the latter, though. It was one of those late night, half-sleep viewings.

thevoid99 said...

Right now, this is my favorite of Joon-ho's films so far as I was just hooked by what was happening. It was better than I thought it would be. Having now covered all of his feature films, the man is clearly one of the best filmmakers working today.

Anonymous said...

GREAT post! This really is a brilliant film, one that grows and grows on me the more I think about it. Such delicate handling made this feel so full of life and depth.

Alex Withrow said...

Great review. I love this film and wish it was discussed more among Bong Joon-ho's body of work. Kim Hye-ja is so damn good here. Really startling work.

Dell said...

I won't argue it. I had no expectations going into this one and was blown away.

thevoid99 said...

@Fisti-It is truly one of the finest suspense-dramas ever as I was just blown away by it. I'm nearly finished w/ my Auteurs piece on Joon-ho as of right now.

@Alex-Thanks. I was in awe of Kim Hye-ja's performance as well as the fact that the L.A. film critics gave her the Best Actress prize.

@Wendell-That is usually the best way to approach a film and it ends up being so much better.

Ruth said...

I should get into Asian cinema more, it's odd that even though I grew up in SE Asia, I'm never into Asian films. In any case, I was impressed by Bong Joon-ho's work in Snowpiercer, so I trust that this was very good indeed.

thevoid99 said...

@ruth-I think this is his best film to date as the man is clearly the best Korean filmmaker working today though it would be arguable as there's also Chan-wook Park, Kim Jee-woo, and many others. This would be a good start into Joon-ho's work.