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(2009)

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10/10
No idea this film would end up the way it did (and I'm not telling)
sitenoise30 September 2009
It's too bad that because this film is ostensibly about an old lady it must be considered a "smaller" film in Bong's oeuvre. It's not. It is every bit as brilliant, and as large, as Memories of Murder, in my opinion.

In many ways this is the natural, and equal, follow-up to Memories of Murder. It's every bit the caper film that one was, and, although slightly more somber in tone, the film keeps unraveling in directions you don't expect making it much more a plot driven movie than a character study. Kim Hye-ja is, however, magnificent as the titular (gawd I hate that word but I'm using it anyway) mother. There is a scene in this film where she tells the family of the victim her son didn't do it and her eyes are so electrically charged it made me jump back from the screen. Mother fires on all cylinders. The direction, cinematography, script, and acting are all grade A. It's one of those films where each of the secondary characters steals the show for a brief period. (How 'bout that cop who kicks the apple from Won Bin's mouth?) Bong does a remarkable job of populating the world of this film with real people and manages to give them depth and development in a very short period of time. I confess to having a little trouble tracking the other female characters in the film, but no matter. There is a scene (without spoiling anything here) where Kim Hye-ja asks the other 'retarded' kid if he has a mother and it's one of the most complex and heart-rending scenes in cinematic history. Hyperbole notwithstanding, just freakin' WOW! on that one when you ponder just why she is crying.

I wasn't sure where Bong was going to end up going as a film maker. Barking Dogs Never Bite was a reasonable debut. Memories of Murder, a masterpiece. But was it a lucky shot? I'm glad I don't have to consider the dismal Antarctic Journal a Bong film if I don't want to. The Host was lots-o-fun, but that's the one that worried me. Maybe he was going to start making blockbuster type films. But now, after recently seeing his contribution to Tokyo!, and now Mother, I have every reason to believe he is going to kick my butt with interesting film for a long time.
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10/10
well, a boy's best friend is his mother.... no, not that kind of mother, but close
MisterWhiplash13 March 2010
Joon-Ho Bong is one of the most exciting and wonderful storytellers coming out of Asia today. With Mother, he joins with Chanwook Park as being one of THE young South Korean directors to see - by that I mean anything they put out. Bong's work is layered with the skill of comedy and drama, both often so dark and thick that you can put your hand in and not feel the bottom. His previous film The Host showed his talent at making a 'popular' entertainment, a monster blockbuster that actually gave characters to care about while action and terror ensued. But this time he returns to his second feature, Memories of Murder, in crafting a murder mystery that is ultimately, in the sense of the details of the story, hopeless, but carries so much joy and passion in its making that I left elated by the performances and cinematography.

It is, from the look of the premise, pretty simple stuff. A kid who is sort of 'simple' (not really retarded, just slower than the rest of the pack with a bad memory) is charged with a murder of a teenage girl found hanging over a rooftop. He says he didn't do it, or at least doesn't think he did, and his mother believes him. But finding out what happened won't be easy, and the police (as in Memories of Murder) just want the confession quick, which they get from Do-joon's misunderstanding, and move along to the next case. So, the Mother goes on a mystery, like a detective first tracking his shady golf-hustler friend, then going on to who this girl who died actually was, what her connections were, who, if anyone, saw what happened when her son stumbled home drunk that fateful night.

All of the details, seemingly straightforward. It's all in the presentation of the details, and it's this how Bong sets himself apart as an original: taking elements of film-noir and Greek tragedy, of a mother trying to save her son, and by proxy herself, and warding off the "chorus" of a strange and untrustworthy townsfolk who shun her after the incident. Oh, and like in other Bong films there's some touches of pitch black humor- watch for that interrogation scene of the teenage punk on the ferris wheel, or how that crazy hit-and-run happens at the start of the film- but it's either subtle or pronounced so large that one almost puts it down to hysterics. But while Bong navigates the black-comic elements well, it's his skill as a Hitchcock-cum-Chabrol idolizer that makes it a must-see.

This is suspenseful film-making, from the overall arc of finding out the details of the crime, to little moments that are just suffocating. Take when the Mother goes to search the complex lowlife Jin-Tae's place to find possible proof that he committed the murder. She has to hide in the closet when he comes in (Blue Velvet much?), and watch as Jin-Tae and his girlfriend have sex. Later, she has to exit ever so slightly, and knocks over a water bottle. Every second of this counts, and it's thanks to Bong's trust in the view to be lead along, and go for the tension, that makes it work.

Other things that make the film so exceptional are more technical, and emotional. The performances by Hye-ja Kim and Bin Won are moving for how they appear to be, then little by little how they show who they are, and more importantly what they're capable of. The final reel of the film shows the characters, and by proxy the actors, having to go through some rough motions, and a twist that makes Oldboy look, well, almost on-par in comparison. Kim is sensitive, tough, smart, but also knowing of this Mother's faults as a person, that she may have a little of the 'simple' side of her own son, and the secret her character carries, when reveals, is shocking. And Bin, playing a simple kid with some deep-rooted problems (and, of course, never call the character 'retard'), makes him human and relatable, or as Kirk Lazarus might put it "half-retard".

The cinematography, lastly, is a knockout. Scenes like the opening image of the Mother in a field doing an unlikely dance to the diegetic music, and then how the DoP manages between light and dark in those night scenes, or the subtle scenes like when the lawyer has the Mother at a drinking party that goes sour fast, are just beautiful and strange to look at. This may, too, be a credit to Bong as a director. Again, following along on his previous films, he grows as a patient storyteller, ready to let the details or action of a scene go slowly, but also ready to let the actors take things to BIG emotional plateaus. It should be noted that Mother does go into some melodramatic beats, sometimes very heavily, but it's never at a cheap shot or angle. Mother is a harrowing film that treats its characters seriously, but also gives time here and there to observe how awfully bizarre some of it is. It's one of the best of the year.
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8/10
Seeking the Truth
claudio_carvalho18 May 2010
In a province in Pusan, South Korea, the slow Yoon Do-joon (Bin Won) is a young man overprotected by his mother (Hye-ja Kim) that works with acupuncture and herbs and does not like his worthless and reckless friend Jin-tae (Goo Jin). When a Mercedes runs over Do-joon, Jin-tae follows the hit-and-run driver with Do-joon and find the car parked in a golf club. Jin-tae breaks the side mirror of the car and Do-joon collects golf balls lost in a lake. When they see the cart with the driver and passengers of the Mercedes, there is a fight and they end in the police station. During the night, Do-joon walks to the bar Manhattan to meet Jin-tae that does not arrive; when Do-joon returns home, he sees the easy Moon Ah-jung (Mun-hee Na) walking alone in an alley and entering in an abandoned house. On the next morning, Ah-jung is found dead on the terrace of the house. The incompetent detectives find a golf ball near her body and they conclude that Do-joon is the killer. Doo- joon is arrested; signs a confession and is charged of murder. However, his mother follows her instincts believing that her son is innocent and the scapegoat of the incompetent police department and seeks the truth disclosing a dreadful reality.

"Madeo" is an original and dramatic South Korean thriller that has an engaging story with a surprising plot point and many twists. The director Joon-ho Bong of "Gwoemul" makes a simple but effective film with a credible story of a single woman that does everything possible and impossible to prove the innocence of her son that is slow probably because he was poisoned when he was five. The performance of Hye-ja Kim deserves a nomination to the Oscar in the role of a dedicated loving mother that pursues the truth about the murder of a teenager student. With the exception of one review of a user that probably has difficulties to read subtitles; the nine wins, six nominations and the favorable reviews of twenty-three IMDb users are practically an unanimous indication that "Madeo" is a great film indeed. My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): "Mother - A Busca Pela Verdade" ("Mother – Seeking the Truth")
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8/10
A mother's love for her child knows no law, no pity. It crushes down remorselessly all that stands in its path. - Agatha Christie.
Fella_shibby5 June 2018
Was looking forward to this film after enjoying the director's earlier films, Memories of murder, The host n Snowpiercer. The film is about a mentally challenged kid who is also being overprotected by his single mother who is a specialist in herbs n acupuncture. The kid is arrested n charged with the murder of a young girl but the mother believes he is innocent n she goes out to prove his innocence. The best part about this film is the acting by the lady who played the mother. Another good aspect is the details. When the dead body of the girl is kept on the terrace of a dilapidated house for the whole town to see, we as viewers really wants to know the reason n the reason is explained towards the end well suiting. The direction n cinematography were brilliant. The only problem was the editing. Found it to be a bit slow n long.
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9/10
Hilarious and insightful mystery, an emotional cornucopia
Bong manages to capture some of the poignancy of motherhood in his film Mother, which concerns an elderly single mother (played by Hye-ja Kim) and her son Yoon Do-joon (played by Bin Won). Do-joon is mentally disabled, he has a low intelligence and seems to have problems with his memory. His mother is absolutely devoted to her son. Bong throws light on that extraordinary capacity of some women to totally subjugate their own lives to those of their children, who live for the pep that they get seeing often unappreciative family members troughing their way through their latest offering.

Do-joon is framed up fairly early on by the police for a murder that they can't really be bothered to investigate thoroughly. So mum is on the case, you'd better believe it! This involves for example bringing in drinks for all the members of the detective bureau on a visit to the precinct. There's a lot of tragedy in the movie, but it's offset by a comedy that is at times is almost outrageous in it's manipulativeness, Bong's really being directly provocative at times (though not in a salacious sense)! There's a grand surreal scene at one point where he convinces you that a very minor character is going to perform a deeply uncanny suicide, and then something totally banal happens instead. One of my favourite scenes is a scene on a golf course where a shot dollys across to some action taking place in sugar-white bunkers, which would not be out of place in a Fellini movie.

Bong was playing with my emotions throughout, he set up affiliations between me and other characters only to subvert them or rebuild them later, he builds scenes to emotional explosiveness just for the sake of it. The film leaves you emotionally confused at times, Bong's smashing all the buttons on the telephone, and so you don't really know what number is being dialled. The effect is deliberate.

Bottom line I think it's a celebration of motherhood, but it's not sugar-coated, it's really warts and all. Congratulations Mr Bong!
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9/10
Intense, witty, and engaging
howard.schumann4 October 2009
After a night of drinking, Do Joon (Bin Won), an intellectually-challenged young man, encouraged by his reckless buddy Jin-tae (Ku-jin), attempts to pick up a young high school girl Ah-jung walking home alone. Shockingly, the next day, Do Joon is arrested for the girl's murder as his mother looks on helplessly. Seen at the Vancouver Film Festival, Bong Joon-ho's Mother is an intelligent, suspenseful, and darkly comic revelation of the lengths to which an overbearing but deeply loving mother will go to pursue justice for her son who, she believes, has been wrongly convicted of murder.

Though there is an evocative score by Lee Byeong-woo, the film's use of ambient sounds such as the slashing of Hye-ja's herb chopper and the rustling of leaves add to an ominous mood, though it often clashes with the absurdist events seen on screen. Set in a small Korean town, the elderly mother, played by Korean TV star Kim Hye-ja in one of the most nuanced and emotive performances of the year, makes a living by selling herbal medicine and providing illegal acupuncture treatments. Convinced of her son's innocence, she will stop at nothing, even violence, to find the real killer. She learns details about the dead girl's personal life and talks to alternative suspects, even though even she is not fully prepared for the twists and turns that her investigation will take.

The film opens with a shot of a lone elderly woman walking in a vast expanse of open field, reminiscent of the opening shot in Shunji Iwai's All About Lily Chou Chou. As she approaches the camera, the background music becomes rhythmic and the woman begins a strange, almost provocative dance. The scene then shifts to her business where she is keeping a close eye on her 27-year-old son Do-Joon who she feels needs her constant protection. Playing in the street with a dog, the boy is knocked over by a speeding hit and run driver in a Mercedes-Benz.

Uninjured, Do-Joon and Jin-tae chase the car to a golf course where the two attack the drivers of the Benz with sticks while collecting numerous golf balls, later to be used in evidence in court. On the fateful night, after Do-Joon is thrown out of a bar for being drunk, he pursues Ah-Jung home and the next day is arrested for murder, although details of what happened are murky. Bong shows the police procedural as in Memories of Murder to be on the lackadaisical side and conveys the impression that everyone involved is only out for their self-interest, including police, lawyers, friends, junk dealers, and schoolgirls.

Reminiscent of the quirky, offbeat films of Alfred Hitchcock, Mother is an intense, witty, and engaging psychological thriller with enigmatic characters that do not just populate the screen but are vitally alive. In one outstanding scene that will etch itself forever in your memory, Hye-ja attends the funeral of the girl her son is alleged to have murdered. Although besieged by distraught family members who think her son is a murderer, she has the fortitude to look them in the eye and proclaim "my son could never do something like that". Although "barking dogs don't bite", this woman is one "mutha" of an exception.
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8/10
A slow burning thriller that rewards the viewer
Jurguens3 August 2009
Yoon Do-Joon has an intellectual disability. His friend is a bit of a trouble maker. His mother is always worried about him and protective to the extreme. A young girl is murdered and the lazy police of this small Korean town blame the obvious and helpless Yoon Do-Joon. The police interrogate him and make him sign a confession but Yoon Do-Joon is not really aware that he is signing his entry to prison. The mother, confident about her son's innocence will investigate the case and will go to any extent to free her son.

After the success of The Host (2006), Joon-ho Bong has crafted an intimate slow burning thriller with suspense elements that is contained in a small town, with small characters, but has a great scope. This movie is more similar to his first two movies, which I highly recommend. Hye-ja Kim is excellent as the mother. Her performance is understated but at the same time intense, cold and at the same time powerful. The cinematography is beautiful. The film moves along and builds slowly, more akin to the tempo of the small town we're visiting for the duration of the film, but the twists, turns, and suspense make it a highly rewarding and satisfying ride.
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10/10
One of the darkest, most evil characters in movie history, lovingly portrayed
zken29 March 2010
Film loves evil, the vile, the inept, the perverse and the innocent defamed. All of this is in the brilliant film "Mother". One of the greatest faults of Hollywood is the complete omission of this type of character (I can't reveal who), and this amazingly scripted piece of horrific, monstrous human behavior takes tremendous advantage of the fact that WESTERN film makers lack the guts to do this story. It helps American viewers that both the setting (a small town in Korea) and the actors (complete unknowns to this viewer) all create a clean slate for us to experience this level of depravity and pure and utter darkness of the human spirit. I just saw Chloe, and believe it or not, the films are similar. Both use a strange and mundane setting. Both films dig deep into the hollow lives of these characters, bereft of love and even the most elemental human contact and affection in their lives. And both films point out the sheer perversity of the modern human spirit searching for this love we all dare to desire. Nothing is missing from this absolutely brilliant tour de force of human rendering that will leave you in disgust and awe. After all, what are movies for? If you don't want to feel the fear and trembling of this kind of human tragedy, we should all just sit home. This movie is a masterpiece.
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8/10
An extra-loyal mom
Chris Knipp1 October 2009
Bong Joon-ho's new film is built around actors. The starting point of it is Kim Hye-ja, 'grande dame' of Korean acting (around whom the screenplay by Bong and Park Eun-kyo is built), who gets a chance to break away from the long-suffering, boundlessly loving mother image she maintains in the long-running "Rustic Diary" TV series to embrace a juicier, darker, richer role. Likewise Won Bin, whose pretty-boy looks have gotten him gangster and perfect son casting, here becomes the slack-jawed, unpredictable Do-joon, a "retard," not taken seriously by most of the town, but zealously protected by his apothecary mom (Kim), who even sleeps in the same bed with him, though he's 27. Both the mother's and son's roles are challenging. Kim Hye-ja shows an incredible emotional range within a de-glamorized exterior, and Won Bin subtly side-steps dumb-guy shtick, managing to keep Do-joon lastingly unpredictable and mysterious.

Do-joon has a run-in with the police after he and his friend Jin-tae (Jin Gu) hassle some fat cats at the golf club after one of them hits Do-joon with his Mercedes and doesn't stop. Simple Do-joon brags about being at the police station, but then gets drunk, brooding about the way Jin-tae ribs him for being a virgin and wanting to get laid. Then that same night Ah-jong, a schoolgirl, is found with her head bashed in and Do-joon becomes the prime suspect. His case seems hopeless, but his aging mother, convinced that Do-joon would never hurt a fly, takes it upon herself to conduct her own investigation of the case, which neither the cops nor the fancy lawyer she has engaged are interested in. This story carries its mother-son relationship well beyond the usual. There is no extent to which this mom won't go to protect and exonerate her son, and some of the memories that are dredged up are troubling indeed.

In some aspects 'Mother' reaches back to Bong's 2003 '80's-set police procedural 'Memories of Murder,' particularly to its sensitive development of a small-town milieu. But this film is also full of comic aspects like the director's later international success 'The Host' (2006, also a NYFf selection). The focus on mysterious, isolated people relates to the main character in Bong's top-drawer segment of the 2008 'Tokyo!' trilogy, "Shaking Tokyo." Cell phone cameras, autographed golf balls, and acupuncture also play key roles in the story, which is full of interesting twists and turns. A major turnaround comes from Do-joon's bad-boy friend Jin-tae, whose true role we have no idea of at first.

Bong explodes the image of the ideal mother and as usual, bends genres in this new effort. At times this might seem a twisted psychological thriller with links to Douglas Sirk and Sam Fuller, and the occasionally old-fashioned movie music by Lee Byeong-woo, traditionally surging at key points, reinforces that impression. Ryu Seong-hie, the production designer, has worked extensively with Park Chan-wook, and d.p. Hong Gyeong-pyo does a superb job in integrating the looks of a wide variety of locations. This is highly sophisticated Korean cinema at its technical best.

We can't possibly reveal the outcome: the essence of 'Mother' is that its plot is packed with surprises. Perhaps indeed there are a few too many: the last ten minutes introduce further twists after the surprise climax that might better have been omitted. For all the great look, terrific acting, and explosive plot twists, I'm not sure this is up to the best of Bong Joon-ho's previous work. It's fun and entertaining especially at the outset and watchable throughout, but Bong and Park's screenplay meanders a bit. The film's inclusion in the 2009 New York Film Festival may owe more to timing, to the bloom that's still upon Korean cinema, and to Bong's status as an alumnus of the festival, than to the film's intrinsic merit. (Hong Sang-soo, a NYFF favorite, despite a new film that's received raves, is omitted this year. His 2008 NYFF Paris-based entry was somewhat lackluster. . .)

Bong's 'Mother'/'Madeo' was included in the "Un Certain Regard" series at Cannes, and shown as part of the New York Film Festival at Lincoln Center 2009.

_________________
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8/10
A Nutshell Review: Mother
DICK STEEL31 December 2009
If you're familiar with Bong Joon-ho's works, then Mother comes without surprise at how he deftly weaves a story about mother's love into a mystery thriller that will keep you guessing every step of the way, with enough emotional firepower to twist a knot in your stomach when the truth gets played out. It's a standard three act structure here where the first hour establishes the strong family bonds between Mother (Kim Hye-Ja) and child Yoon Do-Joon (Won Bin), bordering quite close to being incestuous (but this is glossed over since we're dealing with a man-child here), before they key murder scene beocmes the catalyst for Mother to do some serious investigations work in order to prove her son's innocence, given that the perverted justice system provided that bad after-taste.

I particularly enjoyed the epilogue, which ties in with the inexplicable opening credits which made more sense once you've come full circle at the end. It's the classic mantra of two wrongs never making one right, and how in the protection of loved ones, one will resort to extreme measures that blind common, good sense, and become a "rather you than me" syndrome, which I believe every one of us are capable of if we find ourselves pushed to a corner with no where to run. Bong Joon-Ho is again at his element in unravelling the investigations process, which ties in black comedy with painful, dramatic moments, being evenly paced with heightened tension at appropriate moments.

And kudos of course must go to actress Kim Hye-Ja, who almost single-handedly carried the film on her own, since Won Bin disappears mid-way through. Her single mom, with so much affection for her son, just dazzles and makes it convincing that she's been that single pillar of strength and shelter for her son when he gets up to shenanigans brought about by no good company of his. It's not the first time Do-Joon got himself into a fix, given the strange mannerisms he's been taught to try and jog his memory, and Won Bin showcases his acting chops as the dim-witted boy whose disability gets frequently exploited, coming off as endearing at times, so much so that you're quick to judge and side with him as a victim of circumstances, being at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Mother is definitely recommended stuff, especially if you're a Bong Joon-Ho fan as he delivers yet another powerful film that will leave plenty of post-screening discussion.
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10/10
An amazing performance by Kim Hye-ja in a great thriller
eddax7 September 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Well this was a big bag of depression. Great movie though.

A - one might say overly-devoted - mother goes to great lengths to prove that her mentally-handicapped son did not murder a young girl. It's an interesting setup for a thriller but not unique, so what makes the movie so good is really Kim Hye-ja's performance as the titular parent - the dedication to which she throws herself into her investigations risking danger and suffering abuse, and the devotion that she shows her ungrateful son. Oh, and the disturbing Oedipal scenes, yoiks.

Cinematographically, this movie was quite captivating too. There is much to admire in Bong Joon-ho's capture of small town South Korean life and he's also skilled at scenes of suspense - witness the mother tiptoeing past the sleeping gangster. A simple scene but full of tension.
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10/10
A Movie Forced to write My First ever Review,,In my Top 3 always
asgharzafar420 March 2010
Only a film seen so much perfect was 'The Shawsank Redemption' back in 1995.

Its amazingly focused, awesomely directed and what a heavenly story!, i have seen a lot of twist and turn movies (most of them gets boring in the middle)but this is something out of here..u will admire every scene!

I loved 'Shawsank Redemption and The Dark Knight' didn't find time to give them ratings but this movie forced me to give it a Review 10/10 in IMDb. And by the way if this Movie would have been made by Hollywood, it would have got Oscar, but it got only 8.1/10 in IMDb because its Asian, come on Americans??? Sorry for my grammar

Just Watch ! Definitely Recommended !!
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7/10
Masterful portrayal of quiet desperation
Leofwine_draca18 September 2012
As quirky and original as you'd expect from the South Koreans. MOTHER is a lengthy mystery film featuring an unusual storyline about a mother who seeks justice for her unfairly imprisoned son. Along the way, there's all the kind of bizarre supporting characters, atypical incident and genuinely surprising plot twists that you'd expect from a Korean film. This is a movie that keeps you watching throughout despite the slow pacing and lack of action.

The character development is excellent: fully natural, low key throughout, and thoroughly involving. Unsurprisingly, the actors selected to pay the various characters are just right for the part, particularly Hye-ja Kim who we only ever know as 'mother'. She's a unique choice of lead and fits the role perfectly. Won Bin, who made an excellent action hero in THE MAN FROM NOWHERE, is equally excellent here as the slow-witted son and he really gets his teeth into the part.

MOTHER may be a slow burner of a film, but it has a subtle way of truly involving the viewer in the storyline. The tension builds as the climax nears, and then the movie hits you with some moments of quiet devastation that prove a shock to the core. Fans expecting another pulse-pounding thriller like THE YELLOW SEA may be disappointed, but those with open minds will have a ball.
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8/10
A good start, boring middle, great end...
parasrajpatel25 August 2012
This is a decent film with a good plot line. However the delivery is slow and could be better. The lead character who plays the Mother, typifies a classic maternal figure. She dotes on her son and is constantly worrying for, and nagging her son. He sleeps next to her every-night and the son is the Mother's world.

When her son (the brilliant Bin Won) is accused of murder, the Mother fights for his justice and attempts to seek out the truth. At this point the story goes through a slow pace and a series of clues and knowledge is gathered, but the viewer is left wondering where this is leading and how this is going to progress.

Suddenly, the last half an hour of the film, the plot begins to get interesting again and we see the true characteristics of the Mother which is superbly portrayed. The conclusion of the film is somewhat shocking, but, on reflection of the entire film, is not surprising.

Overall, this has a good plot and is definitely one to watch, albeit slow moving at times.
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10/10
S. Koreans film makers are so damn brilliant.
wai_see_lay2 July 2012
So recently going on a S.Korean film rampage (Memories of Murder, Oldboy, The Chaser, etc) The more I watch these S.Korean thriller movies, the more I admire how brilliant these films are compared to the typical Hollywood movies out there. Their movies are always original, creative and exciting to watch. To have a senior women starring as the main role in a crime/thriller movie is undoubtedly unique and definitely not what one expects within this type of genre. But it works, and works exceptionally on a whole nother level. Most murder mysteries in typical films involve engaging the audience in uncovering the complex 'truth' that keeps us guessing until the end. But this film is different, completely the opposite of what one would expect, similar to that of the ending of "Memories of Murder". It's not simply about finding out what really happened in the crime scene, but rather a shocking twist to how people can change as a result of the crime. It really puts you in the shoes of the mother, you could feel the mother's emotions as the film progresses. When you watch this film, try not to think so hard, because you'll be in one heck of a 'wtf' moment.
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6/10
A bit disappointing
MattyGibbs9 May 2013
From the ratings I was looking forward to watching this but unfortunately it left me a bit cold.

It is well acted and filmed but it never sustained my interest for the full two hours. It would have been a far more effective film if half an hour had been cut from it.

Although quite tense in places I expected this to be far more sustained than the odd scene. The story I found to be quite predictable and unsurprising.

I wouldn't put anyone off watching the film as it's certainly not a bad film but it just wasn't for me.
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7/10
a bit disappointed from Joh-ho Bong, but a very good movie overall..
Chandan4494 June 2010
If this had been my first movie of Joon-ho Bong, I would have given it straight 8 or 9, but the truth is, it never even touched the standard set by him in "The Host" and "Memories of Murder". I'm not saying it's not good,but the thrill was gone. Characters and plots are reminiscence of John-ho Bong's previous work "Memories of Murder". Rainy and cloudy weather doesn't support the plot as much as in his previous movies. It can stand on it's own as a very good thriller and it's unfair of me to judge this movie on the basis of his previous work, but I am a bit disappointed. The best thing about the movie is acting by the lead character "Mother". 90% of the time she is on screen, and you wouldn't complain about it.
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Torque Sheer
tedg26 April 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Most storytellers want to take you somewhere into the soul, but all they have to work with is the externalities, the actions of humans. You don't have many strategies to work with. A common one is to place the examined soul in the midst of larger forces, war for instance. Then there is a certain "fold" between the inner and outer flows that when the two merge, allows us as the outer viewer to join the inner story.

Alternatively, the storyteller can have us invest in a relationship between our focus and someone else, a relationship so drawn to open a relationship with us, through which we swim into the intended world. That is what has been done here.

The "other" character is a brain damaged young adult. He is in a way a non-person, without the ability to be an agent in a story. He has no forward thrust. As it happens, he is the cause of something significant in the story without understanding. The fact that he is without story, unable to observe, changes our relationship with the usually simple narrative dynamic. We are placed between them.

This is a profoundly affecting drama as a result. Unexpected things occur, and we experience them not as we would, but as she does. Our first image of her is inexplicable, she is in a trance, dancing in a field. Only toward the end of the film do we catch up to that point, knowing the context. Something transformative has happened and when we revisit it, we see it from the inside.

Powerful filmmaking, in part because of the expert manner in which the ordinary dynamics are handled. In part, this is because the filmmaker has tricked us into investing in a way against with we have few protections.

Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.
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I'm outvoted; HATED IT.
lor_8 March 2010
Warning: Spoilers
ALERT: SPOILERS AHEAD! This is a poorly scripted Korean mystery thriller that seems to have impressed everyone else posting here; the only naysayer before me was only complaining that it wasn't up to the genius previous work of Bong.

I'm certain that know-it-all IMDb-ers will reject my P-O-V, but here's some key points that need to be raised by a non-sycophant. A good, let alone great, thriller needs careful scripting & direction to maintain the audience's state of suspending disbelief -this is a key element of greater importance than say, in the case of a slice of life kitchen sink film or a drawing room comedy, where very little out of the ordinary occurs.

By having unbelievable coincidences as key features to the story's progress, Bong lost me completely. I will focus on a central series of scenes where all narrative believability falls apart. The schoolgirl is showing Mother how she adapts a cell phone for "spy" use, as they sit in a cafe. Outside the window two boys obviously spot her. When Mother's inquisitiveness raises suspicion, the girl sends her out to the drugstore to buy emergency tampons (!), as an excuse to make a hasty exit. As expected, the girl is gone when the Mother returns, yet she immediately (and oh so conveniently) finds the girl nearby being tortured in an alley by the rather guilty-seeming two boys, only to be miraculously saved by a brutish adult who is angered by their despoiling his space in the alley: territorial imperative. Soon after Mother is presenting her son's untrustworthy (but helpful) best friend with a vast wad of cash. He had previously requested she use his text message to get the money "settlement" directly into his bank account; she has another wad of money she doesn't give him, BOTH sums of money are impossible to explain in her possession since she's destitute, and director Bong, presumably with scenes deleted for eventual DVD bonus use, never makes even a token effort to establish the money's existence as credible. With the money in hand, her son's friend gruesomely (for gore-hounds' enjoyment, Bong having a horror movie following already from prior work) tortures one of the boys for information. All of this is nonsensical storytelling -utter garbage, incompetently written, structured and directed. I daresay if this film were not on a pedestal as a subtitled "foreign import" but merely a U.S. B-movie, this reject scripting would be ridiculed by the same clowns, including brain dead critics and film festival program directors, who praise MOTHER.

Late in the film, after searching the site for perhaps 8 seconds, Mother's son finds the incriminating acupuncture box which he presents to her in a "reveal" near the end of the film. This is ludicrous scripting -the director DOES NOT play fair with the audience the first time around in letting us perhaps see (or through sleight of hand misdirection not realize we are observing) the boy finding the case. A hack director could show the boy idly picking something up but through his mise en scene not show us what it is; that's how you set up the later revelation properly. It is highly improbable that the admittedly incompetent authorities (much of this nonsensical film is built on the premise that the local police are the most dimwitted on the planet and incapable of acquiring or processing evidence) would have not noticed the case with infinitely more time to observe the fire scene than our hero, and the state of conflagration of the junkman's hut renders the virtually intact (not mint condition, but nearly VG+) state of the acupuncture case and its contents as pure hokum.

That reminds me of the biggest cheat, which make comparisons of this junker with any classic (or just classy) mystery film of yore, let alone Hitchcock, ludicrous, being the presentation of the girl's murder in the first place. It is a total audience fake-out; we see our hero suspiciously pursuing the young schoolgirl around corner after corner, see her disappear in a side way, the heavy rock is thrown out at his feet, but the editing offers no hint or fairness in terms of the later revelation (by the junk dealer, which we have no reason to doubt since we the audience AREN'T the hero's Mother but supposedly objective observers) that the schoolgirl had a key conversation with the hero at this point, leading to him assaulting her. I object to the omission of ALL this key material -of course, the director shouldn't show us the murder early on, but the pre-murder material must be presented in a fairer way to be taken seriously. Remember Hitchcock's emphasis on suspense -Bong is all about surprise, with most of the violent scenes and other morbid buildups taken right out of the horror play book: shock cinema. Destined for a contemporary audience that unlike its ancestors, film buffs who used to care about credibility, will uncritically swallow anything, believe anything, and forgive anything dished out by today's crop of hack, ultra-hack, and mega-hack directors.
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10/10
One of the BEST foreign thrillers ever!
MetalAngel5 August 2010
"She'll stop at nothing," reads the ominous tagline on the poster of Bong Joon-ho's latest cinematic triumph "Mother". I remember seeing Bong's thriller "The Host" (the one filmed documentary-style where a giant octopus threatens a city) and I didn't think much of him as a director; sure, the movie was interesting and thrilling enough, but it didn't make it great or memorable. One year afterwards he turns up with "Mother" and quickly establishes himself among the greatest and most respected of foreign directors. I mean, how can I sufficiently give honor and credit to such an intelligent film? In one year, Bong has managed to mature cinematically and challenge audiences worldwide with a film that's deep, VERY thrilling, intelligent to a tee and indubitably important.

The film's short title and its ominous tagline tells us a bit about the plot: obviously, it's about a mother who'll stop at nothing. Duh. The mother in the film is nameless, perhaps so we can identify with her and her unending quest. Played to perfection by Kim Hye-ja, she's an over-protective, extremely affectionate woman who sells a variety of herbs and medicinal plants and who performs acupuncture to her rich customers on a South Korean city of no name. Her son, Do-joon (Won Bin) is one step away from retarded, mild-mannered and all-around silly; we fail to identify with him at the beginning and go as far as to condemn his passiveness. In his stupidity, he hangs around with a local tough guy named Jin-tae, who's his best friend, and who accompanies him to the local country club to collect stray golf balls whom Do-joon plans to offer as a gift to a girl he likes. From the beginning scenes where a car runs over Do-joon and Jin-tae goads him into wrecking the culprit's car on revenge, we know their friendship is flawed and the latter can do nothing but lead the poor retard on a wrong path.

Well, it so happens that one night Do-joon gets drunk and, as he goes back home to his worrying mother, he follows a girl down a seedy path looking to have sex with her. She ignores him and he returns home, as planned...but on the following morning, the girl is found dead on a rooftop and one of Do-joon's golf balls is found near the scene of the crime. The police guesses he's guilty, they present him with a document where he pleads guilty which the silly Do-joon signs in his naïveté. Having accepted the guilt for the crime, he's imprisoned, much to the rage of his affable mother. She knows him better than anyone and is SURE he's not guilty, but the police won't hear otherwise, and she has no money to entice a lawyer into thoroughly investigating the case. So, like any concerned mother, she starts playing detective around town trying to solve the mystery behind the girl's death so she can acquit her son. But as truth after disturbing truth is uncovered, our protagonist finds that 'she'll stop at nothing' to save her son's freedom.

The film shines. The many technical aspects (such as the muted, ominous score, the perfect editing and the cinematography) aid in making this an interesting experience, but the REAL triumph behind the movie is a) the clever screenplay and b) Kim Hye-ja's flawless acting. First, the plot thickens and thickens to insurmountable depths, and it leaves virtually no plot-holes; it's a well-devised mystery unlike any I've recently seen. And second, Kim's performance of a cunning, methodical, calculating mother truly deserves an Oscar nod. Every second she's on screen she turns up the thrills. We can't help rooting for this enraged mother trying to protect her son, even as the mystery leads her deeper into a web of violence and murder, and the depth she gives to her character alone make the goings-on all the more nerve-shattering.

I can't say more about the plot because I might give away some spoilers, but trust me when I say every single scene, every single character counts, and Bong Joon-ho has gone meticulously through the film to present us one of the most exciting thrillers ever. John Powers from Vogue calls it "darkly funny", and I have to agree. Even though it is a detective thriller, it's enriched with some VERY dark comedy (seasoned with cinematic irony and social commentary) that will have you meditating on the absurd nature of crime scene investigations. Not only does the movie present you with a swell story, but it touches on themes such as crime, prostitution, no-secrets towns, the stupidity of our youngsters and, most importantly, the zealous nature of mothers towards their sons. Few films manage to exact surprised laughs from us at the same time that it keeps us riveted to the edge of our seats, our minds shattered by what we see.

I recently discovered this was South Korea's official entry for the 82nd Academy Awards last year (2009), and I am enraged to see it wasn't nominated in the end. A film of such power and such depth shouldn't be overlooked, and quite frankly, I'm appalled to see films like "Mother" be snubbed from the Oscars (even Italy's excellent film "Vincere" was snubbed and overlooked for other films like Peru's "La Teta Asustada" which, even though it was very interesting, doesn't reach "Mother" or "Vincere"'s height). "Mother" is a film every thriller-lover should watch, and I can assure you it won't be easily forgotten.

Rating: 4 stars out of 4!!
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4/10
Way too much hype......
micahas22 August 2010
Before watching this film I got online and read several reviews like I always do, to get a feel about what i'm about to see. From what I read I was very excited about the film, several people were comparing it to Hitchcock and saying what an incredible thriller it was, and many people praising it so highly, that after a few pages of reviews I thought I was preparing to watch a cinematic triumph. Well, I have NO idea what all those people were talking about... it's not some great thriller or mystery, it's not even a good thriller or mystery...I kept reading about all these great twists, none of which I found were much of a stretch. Now don't get me wrong, it wasn't a horrible movie by any means, it had some bright moments...great performances, some good humor, cool cinematography, but I'm just warning you, don't go into this movie believing your about to see some great mystery thriller, or you'll be greatly disappointed...when it ended, it was one of those " you got to be kidding me" moments.
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6/10
Somewhat disappointing.
punishmentpark18 January 2016
Warning: Spoilers
'Gwoemul', by the same director as 'Madeo', was one of the best monster movies I have ever seen (although it's a been a few years), his 'Memories of murder' was a terrific thriller, and 'Barking dogs never bite' was a pretty good drama. And so I have been anticipating this one rather eagerly for quite a while.

It's certainly not a bad movie, but somehow it disappointed me a little. Maybe it has to do with the mother, who remains elusive at all times, even if the title already gives away how as to we should look at her, and that it simply indicates who the main character is / should be.

The other points of view, through the son's eyes and several other supporting ones, and the fact that the story plays with the facts of a gruesome murder case, demand a lot of attention as well, which takes away some of the focus on the most important character: mom.

These are just some ideas that I have about why I feel that this is my least favorite Joon Ho Bong movie, but it may very well be a more intuitive thing for me, also. The movie and story simply didn't grab me as much as, especially, 'Gwoemul' and 'Memories and murder' did. It felt dragged out too long and was too depressing maybe, even for me.

A good 6 out of 10 it deserves nonetheless, at the least (fine acting, cinematography). And maybe I'll try it again some day.
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Finding the spot that lifts
chaos-rampant24 December 2013
So we want films that challenge, engage, but don't waste the engagement on a trifle gasp. It's easy to unsettle, a murder or rape; the real challenge is what next? How do you open us up? This one's a great example, but you'll have to wait for the last scene.

A few things are first established before the crucial crime. A hit- and- run introduces random agency in a world where violence can swoop down from nowhere and wreck lives. The altercation with the broken car mirror is for us to understand that the savant boy is an unreliable narrator, susceptible to stories. And his relationship with the mother is portrayed to teeter between the merely awkward and the unacceptable, so that we first have to struggle with our own selves before we can empathize with either.

And then it becomes about us. How we are susceptible to stories, unreliable narrators of what we witness. How empathy is a matter of inheriting a story as though it was our own child in it, going on faith. Do we believe the guileless boy as his mother does? Do we trust that he remembers when he does? Our own visual testimony?

It is about us having to struggle to empathize. About us, having empathized, being uncertain of the judgement. This is a hard earned empathy, not Spielberg's mushy one where cute lost boys face obvious evil, evil here being the inability to even know about it.

— it's really vital to realize that the boy's original impression of the crucial scene is his own 'real' subsequent memory of it, the event having been reconfigured into view in just the way we first see it. It confuses because that is what he recalls having happened, he's not lying.

— the important discovery of the victim's cell phone leads to a story that trickles to the mother through three levels of narrators, the victim inside a (stoned) boy's memory being told to a third person. The phone itself is full of pictures of men, each one potentially the culprit.

— later in the film there is a reconstruction of the original scene of the murder, as the savant finally remembers a man in the house, and this man is later found and gives his own testimony. This is so good it's worthy of the photo reconstruction scene in Bladerunner.

— this recalling is marvelously framed through windows and unclean glass. At its most pure, the film is this glimpse through hazy glass at a troubled boy trying to remember, it's about moving walls around to create that space where something horrible happened.

— the film begins with an image of the mother, at that point simply she's just a middle-aged woman to us, inexplicably dancing in a field. In the end we know at what point in the story this takes place but the gesture remains wonderfully ambiguous.

Which brings me to the last scene. The whole film is meant to appeal to a broad audience, though it presents by no means simple and uncomplicated truths. But the last scene is one of the most striking I have seen.

Great cinema begins where drama and metaphor end, it's hard to describe what that next step is, in short we'd say transcendent. The context of narrative is always illusory, it is the opportunity for us to be aware in a certain sense. This is why it doesn't matter what's the answer to the mystery in Blowup, or why the hayloft barn ablaze in Zerkalo is not encountered as the result of any logical causation.

In the last scene we have that step beyond causation into ambiguous air. The mother has been sent off in a bus with other middle-aged people. She prickles her knee with her acupuncturist's needle, hitting that spot "that eases the heart". See what happens in the film. What is the urge that lifts everyone from their seat?

There's a lot of great Asian cinema I'm being exposed to lately, and that scene is the third most captivating in an Asian film of the decade I've seen, all three involving physical activity of some sort as transcendence, two of them dancing. Find my second favorite in Sharasojyu.
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8/10
"Mother" delights in confounding viewer expectations.
nesfilmreviews8 August 2013
"Mother" is an alluring piece of work, an artful mystery that melds clever plotting with resourceful camera work, with sympathetic characters that are fascinatingly morbid. South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho follows his monster extravaganza "The Host" (2006), in firm control of his medium in a different genre, proving once again that conventions need not always confine.

After a night of drinking and waiting for his long time friend, Do-joon (Won Bin), finds himself in some serious trouble. The next morning, he is accused of murdering a young woman on his way home from the bar, and he has no recollection of whether or not he did. The case has enough evidence to be closed quickly, but his mother, played by Kim Hye-ja, refuses to believe that her son could do such a thing. So she pushes forward, not accepting what the police have pieced together, and starts her own investigation to find the real killer, and free her son.

The film is a labyrinthine and cleverly deceptive, and not in a way we might anticipate. Long after a conventional thriller would have its destination in plain sight, "Mother" is still penetrating our assumptions. There are twists are aplenty, and deductions achieved too easily are simply the result of contrived clues and convenient witness testimony. "Mother" delights in confounding viewer expectations. In fact, just when you think it's over, a couple more developments still remain.

The film progresses with remarkable clarity, while drawing surprise and suspense from unexpected places. It's director Joon-ho Bong's unique style of old and modern approaches to filmmaking -- his stylistic and subtle ability to weave this story, and employing a witty use of dark humor throughout is what makes this film so impressive. "Mother" slowly burns its way towards revelations and depths of a character's soul that most dramatic thrillers shy away from.

The most surprising aspect of "Mother" is how differently it begins, and from that, what it becomes. Unique and utterly compelling in its entirety, "Mother" concludes in a manner that solves all (or nearly all) outstanding riddles. "Mother" deftly weaves a story about mother's love into a mystery thriller that will keep you guessing every step of the way.
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9/10
Definitely worth a look!...
cat_ranchero17 December 2012
I must say I found this a really great watch! Aside from the many cultural nuances, of which there are many, I found it a riveting tale with some very nice twists. Beautifully shot with a very nice musical score by Byung-woo Lee, I found it easy to follow (despite the inconvenience of subtitles). All the performances were excellent but I must pull out Hye-ja Kim for her tremendous portrayal of this driven woman, a great piece of work! Over all, it's hard to find much wrong with filmmaking like this; Hollywood take heed! Definitely well worth a look.

SteelMonster's verdict: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

My score: 9.0/10

You can find an expanded version of this review on my blog: Thoughts of a SteelMonster.
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