MOTHER UK Blu-ray Review

Contributor; London
MOTHER UK Blu-ray Review
Bong Joon-ho's follow up to Host (2006) is an enthralling, tragic, mystery thriller which owes much to Hitchcock but ploughs its own distinct route to your emotions, as it explores just how powerful the bond between mother and son is.

The titular Mother is a single parent working as a herbalist and unlicensed acupuncturist, in debt and a state of long-term poverty. She has an extremely (some would say, unhealthily) close relationship to her son, Yoon Do-joon, with whom she shares a bed. 27 year-old Do-joon has learning difficulties and spends his days getting into trouble with his friend Jin-tae, he latter often being the instigator of various close shaves and mishaps. Gentle, friendly but prone to unreliability and easily influenced by others Do-joon has his fair share of problems. One night, heading home drunk after Jin-tae stands him up, he comes across a young girl he tries to talk to - without much success.

The film then cuts to Do-joon arriving home, confused and disoriented. The next day he's arrested for the murder of the girl, discovered draped over the roof railings of a derelict building for all to see. The evidence points to the alarmed Do-joon who can't remember a thing, and with a police force happy to have a quick conviction and a less than committed attorney, Mother is left to take matters into her own hands. Convinced that her son is innocent she turns amateur investigator.

At its heart Mother is all about Hye-ja Kim's magnificent performance in the title role. Determined, desperate and devoted, she's a force to be reckoned with. In an utterly convincing portrayal of maternal instinct and the lengths to which love for one's child will drive you, it's hugely impressive.

As a mystery there are plentiful Hitchcockian red herrings amidst a score that slinks beautifully between melancholy and the bombast of North By Northwest's ilk. At one point, early on, a major car crash comes from nowhere and brings to mind that critical accident in Dante Lam's Beast Stalker. Yet here, this major incident passes with no significance to the plot whatsoever. At once it puts you on edge, unsure for the duration as to what will prove crucial or trivial in the scheme of Mother's single-minded quest.

Bong Joon-ho imbues the familiar mystery structure with a dreamlike air of profound strangeness as Mother becomes increasingly obsessed. As she navigates her way through a cast of oddities, it becomes difficult to distinguish what aspects of the story we (and her) can trust. Memory, perception and ostensible facts are often deceptive.

The troubling climax is heart-breaking, with the emotional complexity of the situation brought into tragic focus and the adage that there's really nothing a mother wouldn't do for her son borne out in full. Gripping, off kilter and suspenseful, this is Kim Hye-ja's show throughout.

The Disc

By no means a remarkable transfer, there's a noticeable amount of grain, though given the film's hues of grey and numerous dark and rainy scenes, I suspect this was at least partly intentional. Otherwise it's a very clean transfer with strong sound and clear English subtitles. The extras are 4:3 and look to have come from features made for the original South Korean release; interesting enough but nothing special.

Mother is out on UK DVD and Blu-ray from 20th September 2010 through Optimum Home Entertainment.
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