This was on so many ‘best ofs’ and ‘I really liked’ lists that I feel so guilty taking this long to get to it. In retrospect I might not have bothered, because for a film that opens with random solo geriatric dancing in a field Mother ended up a bland and largely unmemorable piece of work.
Everyone knows that good old Mum will do anything for you. She is your biggest supporter, even when you are wrong or being silly you can rely on her to be there.
The ‘Mother’ in this film – that is all she is referred to – is a simple woman in a low income area of an unnamed Korean city, she strives just to make ends meet by doing some illegal acupuncture work on the side.
She has a son in his 20s named Do-Joon. Now trying to be as PC as I can I couldn’t work out if Do-Joon was mentally handicapped or merely very, very dumb. In either case he operates at a very simplistic and childish mental level, conversation is stilted and inane, he forgets where he is even near traffic and is easily frustrated. An added problem is on top of all this he also has to endure the unfortunate urges that afflict a 20-something young man.
It is after a night out indulging in a few beers that things go sour. Do-Joon arrives home with no recollection of the evening’s events and in the morning is accused of the murder of a young schoolgirl in an alley.
Do-Joon pleads innocence and of course his Mother sticks up for him even when the locals erupt in a furore at the death of a young girl. Do-Joon ends up in jail.
But Mum can’t allow this to end there.
With the local cops hardly springing into action Mother commences an exhaustive investigation, grilling anyone and everyone for the facts about Do-Joon’s actions that night and the background and character of the murdered girl.
Mother questions everyone she can think of, Do-Joon himself in prison, his lawyer (at one point in quite a surreal scene that takes place in a karaoke bar), Do-Joon’s only buddy, the parents of the girl, and local schoolkids who shed more light on the situation.
But the more she progresses the more reluctant everyone else becomes, the lawyer and cops advise her to move on and wait for Do-Joon to be released in a few years, but never get between a Lioness and her cub.
Mother is single-minded, deliberate and purposeful, even when she feels her private investigation is unraveling.
I am happy enough to say that the Mother of the film is excellently acted and the plot moves along well, but in reality the entire story was pretty simplistic and anyone who has seen more than three films will spot the ending a mile away.
I thought it was OK, but put it in English and have any weathered American actress taking the lead role and it wouldn’t be as universally admired.
Anyone who has read more than a couple reviews on this site knows that I am hardly averse to subtitles and foreign films in general, but in the case of Mother I think that more credit is given than is merited simply because of the setting of the film.
Final Rating – 6.5 / 10. ‘Korean drama’ doesn’t necessarily mean brilliance and a demand for acclaim, this is one Mother that you don’t have to respect when she’s wrong.