Evoking Almodovar and Hitchcock in its style, taught plotting and wonderfully realised characters Mother is a heartbreaking tale of how far maternal love will push you.
The titular mother, played by Hye-ja Kim, has nothing in her life except her son Do-Joon (Bin Won) – a simple minded soul whose naivety and childlike brain have made him completely dependent on his mother (although he constantly rebels against it).
After a night out drinking, Do-Joon follows a young girl who is then found brutally murdered the next morning. Finding incriminating evidence the police arrest Do-Joon accusing him of murder, which he guilelessly goes along with even though his mother is insistent on his innocence.
With a useless, shifty lawyer, an uncaring police force and the whole town against her she sets about trying to free her son and find out the truth behind the killing. Her maternal quest leads to the uncovering of shocking secrets and lies, eventually forcing her to face a difficult dilemma which will challenge how far she is prepared to go for her only child.
With the title, Madeo, – itself a play on the similarity of the spelling of both Mother and Murder which occurs due to the phonetic differences when translating the English words to Korean characters – the film embraces its thriller storyline, merging it seamlessly with a dissection of dysfunctional family life and subtle social comment.
The script is minimal but powerful and the characters wonderful written and excellently portrayed by the talented cast. Although not a horror film as such there are plenty of moments of tension, suspense and violence. All however are balanced out by slapstick and dark humor resulting in a tragic tale which exposes human nature at its rawest.
Part murder thriller, part multi-layered character study this is a superbly written and expertly directed piece of film which further cements Joon-ho Bong’s place as one of the most innovative and exciting directors of the moment.