When dealing with a thriller whose plot puts a character’s child at stake, there is a certain family dynamic to follow. It’s usually the father who seeks vengeance and the mother is surprisingly either dead or completely absent from the script, and if a mother figure does arise, she is usually losing her mind due to all the stress and thus is nearly helpless to the male protagonist. Joon-ho Bong’s “Mother” turns the table on the equation and instead of portraying a havoc-wreaking dominant male, it stars Hye-ja Kim as the mother to Yoon Do-joon, played by Bin Won. Hye-ja Kim’s character, to whom we are never introduced by first name, is an intelligent and peaceful mother whose only motivations are love for her mentally-ill son and her goal of proving his innocence in a murder that he did not commit.
Taking cues from a number of Hitchcock classics, while still creating a tense atmosphere, “Mother” is a South Korean import that cannot be missed.
The plot is a simple murder mystery and is quite easy to follow, even through its increasingly less subtle plot twists pile up to a extremely satisfying third act. However, there are moments of amateurish slapstick that could have been cut because they are unfunny and unneeded.
But the real reason “Mother” succeeds is the plethora of great performances — especially from Bin Won and Hye-ja Kim. From the opening scene, which shows Mother simply dancing, there is a sense of warmth in the character. We take her to be pure because she represents, in essence, motherhood. Bin Won also gives an incredibly convincing performance as the son.
“Mother” is the cure for all the recent cut-and-paste thrillers. Though its ending can easily be foreseen after seeing the movie, the performances of the film’s lead cause the audience to question its plausibility and this should be a benchmark to any noir.
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