Mother is a very engaging Korean film. The ending ties everything up in a subtle ways. While it’s a mystery, there is a lot here on life, such as the mother son relationship and bullying. One night, Do-joon goes out to a local bar to meet his troublemaking friend Jin-tae and on his drunken walk home, he has a brief encounter with a schoolgirl named Moon Ah-jung. The next day, the girl turns up dead, coldly draped over the edge of a rooftop for all to see. Mother, of course, goes through extreme measures to prove innocence. Later in the movie, there are hints of an even more dysfunctional family history.
Director Bong Joon-ho maintains the mystery even as he is walking us through an entirely too leisurely two hours and nine minute telling of this tale. From being a very quiet gentle thriller, the pace quickly picks up as Mother takes drastic measures to piece together what really happened that night. It seems more personal, more intimate than Bong’s previous two films, which made sweeping statements about aspects of Korean and American society.
The director isn’t being given all the credit here however, as I felt that there’s a vagueness to the film that doesn’t feel organic — as if, having created a powerhouse central character, he didn’t exactly know what to do with her. Nothing in this movie plays out the way you expect it to. Arguably, Mother is Bong’s best, most mature work yet. It’s clear from the beginning that this mother, a neighborhood herbalist and unlicensed acupuncturist, takes maternal devotion too far.
The clues to the culprit’s identity are there in front of us from early in the movie and once we’re made aware of who the murderer really is, these evidentiary elements fall neatly into place. This is a movie that I urge all thriller fans out there to track down as I feel it is well worth your time. It’s not a film any other filmmaker would be likely to have pulled off easily, but from what we know now of this accomplished South Korean, it’s very much a triumph of the sort of mystery suspense that is also an exploration of misogyny in Korea.