• James Rutherford

'Mother': Bong Joon-ho's Highly Engrossing and Wryly Subversive South Korean Mystery-Thriller


Movie poster for the 2009 South Korean film Mother (마더)

Mother (마더) (2009) is a highly engrossing South Korean mystery-thriller starring Kim Hye-ja as the titular matron, an unlicensed acupuncturist who resides in southern South Korea with her intellectually disabled son Yoon Do-joon (Won Bin). After Do-joon is accused of murdering a high school girl named Moon Ah-jung (Hee-ra Mun) and arrested, his mother sets off on a desperate campaign to prove is innocence to the police and the community at large.


Highly overprotective of her only child—born limited in his intellectual capabilities—the Mother dotes on Do-joon incessantly and scarcely lets him out of her sight. Reaching an age of rebellion, however, Do-joon assorts with local thug Jin-tae (Jin Goo) and embraces alcohol as a salve for his anxieties. One drunken night he follows winsome Ah-jung home from a bar and propositions her furtively—the narrative jumping forth to the discovery of the young woman's corpse atop a building the following day. After Do-joon is linked to the crime scene and coerced into a confession, his devout mother steadfastly refuses to accept his indictment and initiates her own labyrinthine investigation into the truth of Ah-jung's demise.


Written and directed by celebrated South Korean auteur Bong Joon Ho (Snowpiercer, Parasite), Mother is a deeply affecting and highly involving affair. The notoriously subversive Bong has crafted a complex fact-finding mission for his central protagonist that rings familiar, as she pieces together clues into Ah-jung's tawdry lifestyle—only for Bong to overturn expectations in radical and profound fashion. Featuring an extraordinary central performance by Kim Hye-ja, it's a rich, provocative and darkly humorous escapade destined to leave an indelible impression.

 

Watch the trailer: