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The story follows a mother (Hye-ja) out to prove her sonís innocence after he was accused of killing a local high school girl.
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How far will a mother go to protect her son? Well, director Bong Joon-ho explores that question in Mother, a South Korean film selected to represent Korea for the best foreign-language film in the 2010 Academy Awards. Certainly one of the best films of 2009, Mother is a character study of a woman trying to save her mentally challenged son, Do-joon, from imprisonment after being accused of murdering a high school girl.
Do-joon has no recollection of committing murder, however, certain evidence appear that point directly to him. During an interrogation scene itís clear the officers are more concerned with closing the case than actually learning the truth. They coerce Do-joon into saying he killed the girl and proceed to close the case. Do-joonís mother knows better and tries everything in her power to clear her sonís name of any wrong doing.
The narrative is the classic ďwho done itĒ accompanied with powerful performances from the vast array of actors particularly from Kim Hey-ja. Her desperation for knowing the truth is only matched with the love for her son. She takes the law into her own hands and becomes a makeshift detective of sorts using a friend of Do-joon to interrogate those she believes are involved in the murder.
During the carnival scene in which she questions, through unethical means, two suspects about the murder, director Joon-ho does a great job of blending suspense with a mix of humor and drama. The scene is intense as she uses Do-joonís friend to force the boys into confessing what they know. Hye-ja watches on with horror and intrigue as the truth is literally beaten out of the high school boys. From that point on, we understand how far Hye-ja is willing to go; there is no road she will not take as long as it leads her to the truth and her sonís freedom.
The farther she goes into unraveling the mystery behind who actually committed the murder the more she learns about the town and herself. The torment, anguish, concern, and passion for solving this case are shown on Hye-ja face. Every time she finds new evidence and brings it to the police, there is always a legitimate reason to dispel her claims. Her character becomes more embroiled in the darkness surrounding the people in the town. Everyone from the local high school girls to Do-joonís friend are hiding some piece of evidence that relates to murder. But much to her frustration there is just not enough evidence to link anyone directly to the crime. Is Do-joon really responsible, or is there something Hye-ja is missing? One piece of evidence she overlooked?
The twists in Mother keep the story fresh and engaging. The plot points never lead the film in a direction not worth taking or unlikely for a character to go. All the decisions made in the film by Hye-ja seem appropriate for a mother committed to redeeming her son, and with no one willing to help; she is left to make these decisions on her own.
Most foreign films such as Persepoli or Let the Right One In are usually a joy to watch because the creators behind them clearly have a passion and appreciation for film. There are so many that come from other countries that rely on the storytelling and the strong skills of the actors to convey their story without compromising for cheap overused plot twists. Nothing is sacrificed in Mother to make it more entertaining or sensational; the story is unfolding naturally as Hye-ja responds to her situation.
The ending will leave people talking specifically about whether or not the answer to the question of ďwho did itĒ was really answered. The film gives an answer, but so much happened leading up to that moment of truth, that you canít help but wonder or at least continue to question what is true. Mother is a compelling character study about a motherís never-ending pursuit for the truth to free her son, and the road she takes to obtain his innocence is truly a thrilling and gripping journey.