Man, that's what I'm talking about. Excellent film. I love murder mysteries and I love Korean film, so this one was made to order, but Mother (2009) is a downright fantastic film into the bargain. Director Bong Joon-ho revisits the bleak, rural noir setting he conjured so deftly in Memories of Murder (2003). But whereas that film was based on South Korea's first (and still unsolved) serial killer case, this film presents the full mystery set including the denouement, providing an overall more satisfying film experience.
On paper it's, well, paper thin: Mother (Kim Hye-ja) tries to save her simpleton son (Won Bin) who's been sent up for a murder he's clearly too sweetly retarded to have committed. It's a small town with seemingly no potential perps except maybe her son's sleazy friend (Jin Goo). Where do you go from there? This is clearly no Agatha Christie affair featuring an assortment of colorful characters with means and motives. However, as mom investigates, she starts uncovering the town's nasty little secrets in a Blue Velvet-y, pick-up-a-rock-and-see-what's-squriming-there kind of way. Her gentle, gradual flaying of the community reveals all sorts of unexpected things, including issues pertaining to her own past. It's all very sordid and dark and utterly engrossing. By the time the credits role, two hours have slipped right by -- you've been utterly rapt.
It's difficult to say much more for fear of spoiling something. Best to just sit down and let the film envelop you like a dark dream. Bong Joon-ho got a lot of attention for his 2006 monster mash The Host, but for my money it's the crime stuff at which he truly excels. Mother is a modern murder masterpiece not to be missed.
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