‘Mother’ is a solid little murder mystery


‘Mother’ is the next film from one of the few Asian directors making a name for himself outside of his home country. Joon-ho Bong of course is the director of ‘The Host’ and ‘Memories-of-Murder’ seeing that ‘The Host’ has become a sort of cult classic it makes sense that his next film ‘Mother’ has gotten some attention. Though I think without ‘The Host’ no one probably would have cared about ‘Mother’, it would have become one of those foreign films that just never made the leap to a bigger audience. That being said it is still a good movie, just nothing that is going to change your mind about foreign cinema.

If anything the important thing about this movie is to showcase Joon-ho’s versatility, he made a gritty crime drama with ‘Memories’, then took an interesting fresh spin on the monster movie with ‘The Host’. Here is a much simpler smaller movie, ‘Mother’ is a basic murder mystery. A boy (Yoon Do-joon) who is probably mentally handicapped gets accused of killing a young girl in a small Korean neighborhood. The police don’t really try that hard to prove his innocence since there is enough evidence stacked against him, plus he has memory problems and cannot fully explain what he was doing instead of murdering the girl that night. Also he is poor, so the odds are against him and to the police it is an open and shut case. His mother will not accept this terrible fate.

Just like ‘The Host’ Bong adds another layer to the whole murder mystery beyond the typical fighting for the freedom of a loved one. The relationship between Yoon Do-joon and his mother is not your typical mother/son relationship. No, it is nothing kinky like that either. All the mother (that is all she is called in the movie) has in life is her son even though he is mentally slow. She feeds him, dresses him they even share a bed together. Her son however just wonders through life never fully knowing what exactly he is doing, he realizes he loves his mother and that she takes care of him but because of his handicap his is stuck in a perpetual state of adolescence that he will never grow out of, which causes him to treat his mother with little to no respect. So it is a back in forth the whole time in your head, you wonder why the mother puts up with her son, but you also feel for a mother’s intuition and need to take care of her young. This drama is what sustains the movie beyond its basic murder mystery plot.


Before going into the movie all I heard was how the movie has twists and turns and it does not end like you expect it to, this turned out to be my biggest problem with the film, I guessed the outcome fairly early on in the movie. While the movie is better then just the ending I’m just tired of critics relying on the ending to talk about a movie to play up if it is good or not. Sure some movies are totally let down by the ending, but people presented the movie like there was going to be some major twist, when it is all pretty straight forward. The ending of this movie is very interesting and had me thinking about it a long time after the movie ended so it is indeed an infective ending and it is a good ending. In fact the ending also makes it a reason to see the movie. Just don’t try to think too hard about it during the film. I know this is all very vague, but it is a mystery and I don’t want to ruin it for anyone.

This movie will probably never become some major cult hit over here, which is fine it is not a movie you need to go out and show people because of how cool it is. It is just one of those solid films that make you realize how much you enjoy foreign cinema. This movie gives you a good feel for what life is like in an urban Korean town is like and some different insights into their police practices. For one they have Do-joon go back to the scene of the crime and sort of reenact what happened while the whole town watches.

The actress who plays Mother does a wonderful job playing the desperate women, but who is not as useless as she seems. Do-joon is played by Bin Won who also does a great job of not going full retard. The rest of the cast are played effectively and the twist and turns about the murder are interesting if not a little standard (for instance the girl murdered has had sex with a lot of men, seen that one done to death) it is played out like a good Law and Order Criminal Intent episode. All in all if you are interested in the works of Bong, then check this out, if you enjoy a good murder mystery check this out, I would say if you happen to catch it on cable on night then check it out but I don’t think it will be showing on G4 any time soon (they show ‘The Host’ non stop) then stop and watch it. Other then that I can’t give you a good enough reason to really seek this movie out, it is a fine movie but being that it’s distribution is going to be limited I can’t see any reason to hunt this movie down, but if you come across it one day then give it a shot.

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9 responses to “‘Mother’ is a solid little murder mystery”

  1. just pillow talk says :

    Well, since I still haven’t yet got around to seeing Memories or the Host, guess I don’t have an anticipation level with this one. But if it’s a decent murder mystery, then maybe I’ll check it out eventually.

  2. Bartleby says :

    Really Koutch> 2 stars? I think it’s a bit better than you make ity ou to be. It’s certainly a more subtle and quiet movie than his other 2, but I’d still say it’s pretty strong. At least 3 out of 4 stars. And in the current film climate we are in, I’d say it’s totally worth seeking out.

    Also, I’d be willing to call this a ‘noir’ film, according to Conti’s listed criteria. Great central performance by the female lead, btw.

    • koutchboom says :

      Yeah I wanted to call it noir, but I decided to stay away from that argument.

      I mean the movie is fine, I just think the actual mystery part of the movie is very basic which is a bit of a let down. Seeing how The Host was so unique. Yeah the mother is great, seeing that this movie came out last year I now know who should’ve beat Sandy B for best actress. I guess it’ll be easy enough to get once it hits dvd’s, its a solid renter. I may be being a little harsh on it, but I was expecting a little something more.

      I mean for me this and Edge of Darkness are about the same level of movie, and I’d say go see Edge before this.

      • koutchboom says :

        Also Bart I didn’t want to hype up the movie at all. So if anyone sees it they may be surprised more so then I was.

  3. Jarv says :

    Very nice review.

    Looking forward to this one

  4. Continentalop says :

    I’m just tired of critics relying on the ending to talk about a movie to play up if it is good or not.

    I think a lot of critics are forgetting that it isn’t so much the destination as the journey to get there.

  5. koutchboom says :

    Oh yeah word of warrning, do NOT read Ebert’s review of this movie, until after you’ve seen it.

  6. ThereWolf says :

    Saw the trailer on Twitch awhile back but couldn’t work up much enthusiasm.

    I’m now inclined to have a look.

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