Mother adopts a wicked fluctuating screenplay that relentlessly nurtures its characters. Joon-Ho, of 'Memories of Murder' fame, imports his infamous dark humour into another murder mystery. However, instead of instantly replicating the aforementioned triumph, he alters the perspective of the investigation to be that of a lamenting mother. The results indicate that South Korean cinema is quite possibly the best exports for thrillers in the entire world. Let me go ahead and put that subjective statement down as fact. I've seen enough of them to know that Korean directors understand the genre through and through, with Mother reaching the top echelon. A hard-working widow strives to prove the innocence of her intellectually disabled son, who has been framed for the murder of a young girl.
Ravenously exploring the concept of how far a mother is willing to go for their own flesh and blood, Joon-ho's script is packed with an alluring sense of unpredictability and poetic thrills that present a darker side to South Korean culture. When the opening cinematic sequence is of the titular parent eerily dancing to a pop song in the middle of a wheat field whilst looking directly at the camera for five minutes, well, you start to develop an idea on what type of film this is. Joon-ho cleverly throws the audience off target on multiple occasions, to showcase a variety of different emotions and themes that our unnamed mother experiences throughout her arduous journey. Pain. Melancholy. Anger.
His consistent juggling of tones, a trademark he has essentially acquired throughout his filmography, allow us to feel these emotive consequences with the protective mother. In just one scene, most notably the prison visitation, Joon-ho injects sorrow from the mother's perspective, unshaken trepidation from her son and hilarity from the actions taken whenever someone says "retard" to him. Occasionally, it does relinquish the intended tone in order to make room for dark humour, but for the most part it provides a refreshing interpretation of the genre. To keep a story engaging, thrilling and suspenseful whilst making it intelligently humorous is quite the achievement. There were multiple scenarios where I certainly did gasp in shock and horror over certain plot details, proof that Joon-ho has crafted yet another captivating mystery.
It must be said though, none of the above would've been as effective if it wasn't for Hye-ja's unprecedented performance. Phenomenal. Absolutely incredible. She commanded every scene through her ornate acting that exhumed fragility, power and sentimentality. Tackling the case head on, despite the detectives rarely caring about the situation, in what must've been a physically and emotionally demanding performance. Bin also gets a mention for his engrossing role as the accused son. From a technical standpoint, it's flawless. Joon-ho's directing techniques, Kyung-pyo's cinematography and Byung-woo's score. Sensational, with each element enhancing the dark world that Joon-ho has lovingly created.
This rollercoaster definitely deserves your attention. You'll laugh at the dark humour, bite your nails during thrilling sequences (although didn't your mother tell you that's a bad habit!), and empty your soul during the third act. Mother, yet again, is another example of pure South Korean cinema at its finest. It still hasn't convinced me to experience acupuncture though...