Mother Review

The Film

Fans of Bong Joon-ho's terrific Memories of Murder will find a lot of similar ground covered in his latest directorial effort. Mother is blackly comic, achingly profound and equally as unresolved in a conventional dramatic sense as his earlier film. Laughs are found in topics like learning disability and incest, and any neat attempts to fall into genre are frustrated just as you think you are able to pigeonhole what you are seeing.
Mother reveals neurosis, guilt, sacrifice and pathological failings which would make most human beings doubt whether persisting in the world of the living is really worth it. What truth or beauty that arises during the film is largely observational and unreassuring, and I can't see many viewers wearing huge grins as the closing titles roll.

The central relationship and the basis concern of the film is that of Do-joon and his mother. He may be best described as a manchild, and his clear learning disability makes him a target for exploitation and the subject of amazingly intense attention from his single parent. Do-joon becomes suspected of the murder of a local school girl, is then seemingly stitched up by the half-arsed local police, and finds himself with only mommie dearest to fight his corner.
The film then takes a number of familiar routes. The mother fights for her son by trying to use influence and then she resorts to amateur sleuthing which unravels a despicably sad tale of degradation and hopeless existences. The action is held together by the drive of the Mother and her curious complicated motivation, and in the end this is largely a single handed piece reliant on the handling of Hye-ja Kim's performance.

And she is very brave in sparing no emotional blushes for her character and laying bare the mixture of obligation and misery that sums up this film. Shot by Alex and framed and composed with great skill, the image of the film always complements the story and unifies the miserable lives in a grey, shadowy presentation. Most crucially, the many layers of social comment, black comedy and grinding reality are reconciled to provide a complex, intriguing film that leaves quite an impact.
Boon Jong-ho is clearly no one hit wonder and Mother proves that he deserves an equal prominence at the forefront of South Korean cinema with the likes of Park Chan-wook and Kim Ji-woon. All three have shown an ability to offer mass entertainment fodder(The Host, The Good, The Bad and The Weird and I'm a Cyborg) as well as more personal efforts like the film on review, and I would impress on the reader that Mother is every bit as good as any work by those two other film-makers.

Unbearably truthful and sanguine, Mother is one of the best films we've seen on these shores in the last year.

Technical Specs

Offered on a region B locked BD 50, Mother's transfer is given a filesize of 29.8GB with the option of lossy stereo or a master audio 5.1 mix. The sound is not designed in a particularly ornate way or with too much evidence of three dimensional effects. Atmosphere and ambience are rendered nicely, effects follow the channels and the music really comes alive in the lossless variant. The removable English subs are well translated, sensible and very easily read from the clear font offered.
The transfer is similarly strong with the low key colours warm enough with strong contrast also evident. Detail is generally good, although perhaps shadow detail could be improved upon. There is nothing in the way of edge enhancement or obvious filtering to interfere with a very cinematic presentation at a framerate of 23.98 per second.

Special Features

A number of the extras offered here come in 720P and the making of documentary is a solid talking heads with location footage kind of deal. The director, producer and main cast contribute and we get to learn about the concerns that backers had about the subject matter and the intention to make a commercial film with artistic integrity.

There's a short featurette centring on the lead performance and another one where cast and crew talk about their memories of and hopes for the project. A trailer also in 720P completes the included extras.


A really fine humane film is presented with a good transfer, lossless sound and few extras.

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Category Blu-Ray Review

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