REVIEW: Mother (2010)

28 06 2017

I’ll give director Bong Joon Ho credit for avoiding a lot of maternal tropes in his mysterious thriller “Mother,” specifically any bludgeoning Oedipal allusions. In the film, an unnamed widow (who we first meet as she dances alone, oddly and blithely, in a field of wheat) cares deeply for her stunted son Do-joon. So deeply, in fact, that she takes it upon herself to play detective and investigator when he is arrested for murder.

Their sleepy South Korean town is not accustomed to any sort of crime, so a body turning up in public view threatens to turn over a lot of stones to which authorities had cast a blind eye. One such item is the unlicensed acupuncture practice run by the mother. Yet for all the risks the situation poses, she is more than willing to exploit the turmoil so she can find a way to exonerate her son … or destroy the evidence.

“Mother” works a lot better in its first act, an exciting chain of events with more of Bong’s dark humor. (A moment of replicating the crime scene with a doll, only to have the head fall off in front of a crowd, had me in stitches.) After the mother doubles down and dedicates herself to deliver a personal version of justice, it gets a little too grim and somber. As a director, he makes more interesting when he embraces the quirks rather than suppressing them. Solid genre effort though this might be, it’s missing a little bit of spark as it comes to a close. B /

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