- Asian Cinema


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Madeo (2009). South Korea. Directed by Bong Joon-ho.
Cast: Kim Hye-ja, Won Bin, Jin Goo, Jin-tae, Yoon Je-moon, Jeon Mi-seon.

A mother's love for her retarded son is the driving force in this unorthodox murder-mystery. When the son is accused of murdering a young girl, his mother springs into action and tries to exonerate him, by finding the real killer. Her methods are ruthless and she's unrelenting, driven by a firm belief that her son is innocent.

"Mother" was directed by Bong Joon-ho, who did "The Host", which I absolutely hated. I must admit... I hated this film too. Almost everything about it is annoying.

It suffers from that faux-artsy catatonic style that has become increasingly popular in the last couple of years. Often the camera doesn't move. The characters stare into thin air. There's no music, no sound. Suddenly, without warning, there's a change of pace, an explosion of violence or action. The composer, the editor and the sound-mixer wake up simultaneously and stumble over each other. The characters in these types of films are obnoxious goof-balls, the more offbeat the better, and they tumble around like clowns in a 3-ring circus, throwing all concepts of real, relatable characterization overboard. I'm not sure who's to blame for this style. I'm not sure when it started. Lately, though, I've encountered it far too often. It works fine in a film like "Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance", but it was disastrous in "Thirst".

After about an hour of this pointless quirkiness the film sends its titular character on her quest. It quickly becomes obvious that the young murdered girl was no angel, and a sort of Laura Palmer-ish investigation follows. To be fair the film does get quite clever in this second half, and it has a few neat surprises up its sleeve, but it was too little, too late for me. By that time it got so far it had already lost me, and all I wanted to do was club that retard and his mother to death with a bicycle pump.

I want to stress that "Mother" is not an inferior product per se. It works both artistically and technically. It's just that I simply hate the way it works. No doubt plenty of people will find this film rewarding and thrilling. Personally I could barely manage to finish it.

David Bjerre
March 14, 2010