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Movies Terrence Kelsey Review by
Terrence Kelsey
Mother
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MOTHER - 2009
Barunson, CJ Entertainment, Magnolia Pictures
Rated: Argentina: 16 / Australia: MA / Canada: 18A / Hong Kong: III / Japan: PG-12 / Portugal: M/16 / Singapore: M18 (CENSORED) / South Korea: 18 / UK: 15 / USA: R

For some, a Mother's love knows no bounds. Such is the case of the "mother" in this Korean thriller from the director Bong Joon-Ho (THE HOST).

Do-joon (Bin Won) is a young man who is kind of on the slow side, mentally-speaking. He's often seen as the village idiot who lives with his overprotective & overbearing mother (actress Hye-ja Kim, giving a tour de force performance). She keeps them afloat by offering unlicensed acupuncture to the ever-gossiping local women.

Do-joon also has a loyal hoodlum friend in Jin-tae (actor Ku-Jin -2007’s GIDAM) whom has a habit of getting Do-joon into trouble, much to the annoyance of "mother" and one particular police detective.

Things come to a head, when a young teenage girl is found murdered - her body bent over a railing on top of an abandoned building for all to see.

Mother

Having followed the girl to this location in a drunken state the night before, Do-joon becomes the prime suspect. It's now up "mother" to prove his innocence, and there are no depths "mother" will not venture to in order to protect her son.

In her quest, she discovers the salacious circumstances surrounding the murdered girl's life.

With his sophomore effort, MOTHER is a change of pace for Bong Joon-Ho. Where THE HOST was a fast-paced (and at times comedic) creature feature flick, MOTHER is a slow, tension-filled twist on the Hitchcockian thriller. The score by Byeong-woo Lee even has shades of Bernard Hermann's score from PSYCHO (obviously another film with unsettling mother/son oedipal issues).

The cinematography from Kyung-Pyo Hong ("Memories" segment from 3 EXTREMES II) fluctuates from warm & cold tones and often has a dream-like quality - at times hazy. Shots range from fluid dolly tracking shots to frantic hand-held POV chaos (usually when "mother" tries to run after her son once trouble arises).

The editing by Sae-kyoung Moon further amplifies moments of tension. For example, a couple times we see "mother" cutting some roots with a paper cutter. Each time she brings the blade down, we cut to her eyes drifting across the street, where she keeps a watchful eye on her son. I keep thinking at any moment she's going cut a finger or two off as the ends of the roots inches closer to the blade.

MOTHER is both a taut suspense thriller and a character study of a lonely older woman whom never really had the chance to live life for herself. Hye-ja Kim's portrayal of the unnamed title character is sad, heroic and terrifying which I find remarkable, given her minimal imdb credits that date back to 1982. I'm curious about what else she has performed in that hasn't been mentioned on that site.

With THE HOST & MOTHER under his belt, I look forward to seeing what Bong Joon-Ho will do next.

I give the film an enthusiastic 5 Shriek Girls.

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This review copyright 2010 E.C.McMullen Jr.

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