‘Mother’ has a primal title for a good reason – the bond that the unnamed mother in the film feels for her mentally slow son is unbreakable. The film makes perfect sense in an Eastern matriarchy (in this case, Korea) as it reveals the lengths to which a mother will go to help her son. Kim Hye-ja runs a herbal shop and does illegal acupuncture on the side, but rarely takes her eyes from her son (action star Won Bin). After being clipped by a passing Mercedes full of golfers, the boy and his ne’er-do-well mate chase the culprits to their golf course, a brawl ensues and all end up in a cop shop run by kindly local policemen.
But keep your eye on the golfball the boy picks up, because soon it has landed him with a murder rap. A schoolgirl has been found draped across the parapet of a building, and Won Bin is blamed. Setting out to prove her son innocent, Mother risks everything including her sanity, her savings and her livelihood in order to get to the truth. Although the mid-section is not without its slow passages, there are some stunning twists and turns here, and the solution is morally ambiguous enough to keep the whole thing turning over in your head afterwards.
Apart from the central astonishing performance, here are camera shots here that no Hollywood cameraman would ever think of choosing. A heart-stopping suspense moment involving a bottle of water, an exhilarating shot of women dancing on a bus, a crime scene recreation that goes hilariously wrong. Bong Joon-Ho directed monster movie ‘The Host’ some while back, and pulls off the same trick he did there – turning what could have been an ordinary crime story into something genuinely fresh and surprising.
BTW, if you look the film up on the Time Out New York website you will find it gets just 2 stars and a nasty, cynical review. A good rule of thumb is to remember that if you really enjoyed a film, TONY will always give it just two stars, mainly because their critics are privileged, arrogant little snits with bad dress sense, side partings and an exaggerated sense of their own importance.