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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

South Korea’s Mother spawns suspense with satirical streaks

click to enlarge Kim Hye-Ja stars in 'Mother'
  • Kim Hye-Ja stars in 'Mother'

South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho takes unconventional looks at monsters and mothers alike. His international breakout hit The Host found B-movie thrills in a mutated amphibian running amok in Seoul. At the same time, it featured a pointed critique of the U.S. military presence in Korea, as well as the quirky dynamics of a dysfunctional family turned unlikely heroes.

Bong's new thriller, Mother, avoids such conspicuous weirdness, but still takes an unpredictable approach to an old-fashioned murder mystery. The audience never knows when Mother will make concessions to the formula, and when it'll deconstruct them. The unnamed title character (Korean TV actress Kim Hye-Ja) works as an acupuncturist in a small-town herb shop. She does her best to nurture her twentyish son Do-joon (Won Bin), a handsome but mentally disabled young man with short-term memory problems. Circumstantial evidence implicates Do-joon in a horrific crime. He lacks the mental wherewithal to assert his innocence or even provide an alibi.

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(Photo courtesy Magnolia Pictures)

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