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The Film

   This movie has an online cover Mother (2009)
Directed By: Joon-ho Bong

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View Count: 1
Last Viewed:2010.07.26
First/Last Reviewed:2010.08.15/2010.10.04

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Guilt is one of the most powerful forces in human kind. I am absolutely convinced of that, and guilt took a center piece in my own film Time Flies, which i have been laboring over for more than 6 years now. Guilt is a very pernicious emotion that is turned inward, self generated, and makes you feel like shit. It is destructive, and puts you in an impossible situation where corrective measures often results in more harm. Take parents who work their asses off to give their kids a future, yet, in so doing, neglect their children emotionally by not being there with them. Then, to soothe their guilt, they lavish material goods on their kids, further perpetrating an emotional state for their children that is just wrong (i.e., letís fill that emotional void with material goods). I see this all around me all too often, and itís very saddening. When i come back from a business trip, i bring but a token present to my kids.

The guilt of a parent towards their children is probably the most powerful form of guilt, and  Mother (2009) explores this in spades, with shocking conclusions. The titular character, "Mother", is an older widow living with her adult son who is somewhat mentally retarded, and she bears an extreme guilt over it. As a result, she is extremely protective of him. Her emotions boil over when her son is accused of murder by the local Police based on very slim and circumstantial evidence. She will go to extreme lengths to prove her son innocent, and take up a dangerous path for herself and her position in her community, to reach the truth.

This is a brilliant movie that proves you can create incredible drama with more mature characters. The lack of strong female roles in Hollywood, and especially elderly roles, has been written about many times, and itís truly a shame. There is certainly a vast chest of experiences and emotions that an elderly female character can bring to the screen, and itís a shame itís not explored more often. You have to go to foreign films to get these types of deeper character stories, and South Korea has shown over a decade that itís very good at that. The writing is impeccable in its management of a very personal story, that of the mother defending her son with al her might, and a potent thriller, a detective story with multiple angles around the murder of a young girl in a rural town. The structure here is very simple, yet the story keeps on rebounding from one suspect to another, to finally land in a very murky territory.

Itís hard to write a review and give you a sense of all those rebounds and twists and turns without giving away any key surprises in the movie. This is in fact the second review I wrote. The first one had the unavoidable ďspoilerĒ alert and I went on to disclose a few of those twists. But then, I realized I would simply spoil the movie too much if you were to see it. Suffice to say that guilt is indeed a very powerful force that often leads to quiet evil and the last 15mn of the film go full on with this realization albeit with a disquieting grace and subtlety that will make you pause for a minute and think.

To note, one of the definitive strength of this film is of course the main actress.  Hye-ja KIM is stunning in her detailed portrayal of a desperate mother. She is frail, and old, yet her eyes ooze with strength and determination. From physical mannerisms to her voice, to her gestures, everything in this performance would call for an Oscar-level recognition.

This is an incredible film with such detailed writing, pitch-perfect performances from the lead roles, great art direction and cinematography that all combined open a very realistic window into this complex story, the portrait of a elderly mother overcome by guilt and ready to do anything to soothe it.


- Laurent Hasson