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Mother (2009) Review



Time: 128 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, offensive language & sexual theme
Kim Hye-ja as Mother
Won Bin as Yoon Do-joon
Director: Bong Joon-ho

A widow (Kim Hye-ja) resides with her mentally challenged son (Won Bin) in a small South Korean town, where she scrapes out a living selling medicinal herbs. Mother and son are plunged into a nightmare when the body of a murdered young girl is discovered. Circumstantial evidence indicates the son’s involvement, and he becomes the prime suspect during the sloppy police investigation. Betrayed by the legal system, the mother takes the law into her own hands to clear her son’s name.

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Mother is another movie from Bong Joon ho, so naturally it was on my list of movies to watch. I didn’t really know what to expect going into it, except of the initial plot description being about someone being accused of murder and his mother trying to prove his innocence. It turned out to be a lot more than I thought it would be, a great and engaging social mystery thriller that really sticks with you long after watching it.


I won’t talk too much about the plot to avoid spoilers. At its core, Mother is a straightforward story, a murder mystery story where one character tries to prove that another is innocent. It’s quite a low key thriller, yet it packs a suspenseful plot, with some clever and impactful twists throughout that’s effectively unpredictable. It’s a riveting murder mystery film, with quite a good central mystery and a real neo noir feel. Bong balances the thrilling mystery and the hard-hitting drama, while adding a bit of his signature humour along the way. Like with Bong’s latest film Parasite, Mother is very Hitchcockian, but also off kilter in the way that you can expect from the filmmaker from his other movies. There’s a lot of social commentary, as to be expected from Bong, such as when it comes to the police, portrayed here as being incompetent, clueless or corrupt. The movie is also really about how much someone is willing to go to save their child, and that theme is present throughout. The ending was great, without getting into too much depth here. It is a very haunting movie, it really sticks with you long after you’ve seen it. It is effectively bleak and unsettling too, and by the end a little depressing. But it is told very well, so you’re still invested throughout. There aren’t many criticisms that I have, I guess it is a bit long at around 2 hours and 10 minutes long, and some of that time could’ve probably been trimmed down a little. The pacing was also a bit slow and could drag at some points, it being a slow burn thriller, but it wasn’t too slow that it bothered me however.


The acting is all great but the performance that stands out of course is the lead Kim Hye-ja, playing the unnamed mother only credited as Mother, and she is fantastic in this film. Despite some of the questionable things that she does over the course of the movie, you can still identify and sympathise with her and her situation. It’s a powerhouse performance, filled with such emotion and nuance, and she’s excellent here. Definitely one of the film’s greatest strengths. Won Bin, who plays her son is also quite good, as someone who has an intellectual disability. Even though the mother is adamant that he is innocent, you’re not quite certain that he is, and can never tell really. The rest of the cast are also good, but it really is Kim Hye-ja’s movie through and through, she owns every scene that she’s in.


Bong Joon-ho’s direction is typically great, and he’s put everything together greatly, it’s edited very well. The cinematography is pretty much perfect, it was shot excellently and is absolutely stunning to look at, and the imagery really sticks with you. The score by Lee Byung-woo is great too, and really fitted the rest of the movie well.


I will say that Mother isn’t one of my favourite movies from Bong Joon-ho like Memories of Murder or Parasite were, but it’s nonetheless a great film that’s extremely well made. With an intriguing and unsettling mystery, a great script, excellent direction and a great lead performance from Kim Hye-ja, it is definitely worth the watch.

Mother! (2017) Review

Time: 121 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Contains violence, horror, cruelty, offensive language & content that may disturb
Jennifer Lawrence as Mother
Javier Bardem as Him
Ed Harris as Man
Michelle Pfeiffer as Woman
Domhnall Gleeson as Oldest Son
Brian Gleeson as Younger Brother
Director: Darren Aronofsky

A couple’s relationship is tested when uninvited guests arrive at their home, disrupting their tranquil existence.

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Mother was gaining my attention with every passing day. It is directed by Darren Aronofsky and stars talented people like Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer, so it definitely had a lot of potential. My interest levels only increased when I heard the response to this movie, that being incredibly divisive and polarising. People either loved it or hated it. As for me when I finally saw it… I kinda loved it. With that said, I can perfectly understand the people who really dislike it. Calling Mother ‘not for everyone’ would be an understatement.

First thing I want to get this out of the way, don’t watch the trailer. The trailer makes Mother look like a straight up horror movie, but the actual movie is nothing like the trailer. It’s a little difficult to describe what kind of movie it is. I can’t even pin it down to one genre, I guess perhaps horror but even then it doesn’t go to that level until the third act. I can’t really go into detail about my interpretation about the story because that would be spoiling things, so I’ll just have to be vague when describing it. All I can say is that there is some religious/biblical allergories that Aronofsky put into the movie, and if you don’t pick up any of them, you will be completely lost. The pacing was slow but I never felt bored, I was always intrigued as to what was going on and trying to figure out what this movie is actually all about. However if you aren’t invested in what is going on (or aren’t able to pick up anything that Aronofsky might be going for), this is going to be a very long drag for you. As I previously said, this movie is very allegorical and metaphorical, it’s not a good idea to go in expecting a conventional story. The third act is where it goes into absolute insanity, by this point, you’d probably realise that this isn’t a conventional story. I’m not going to act like I understood everything, a lot of it I did and I thought it was notably done by Aronofksy. There are some hidden meanings and unresolved aspects that I’m still not certain about, especially the ending. I have a feeling that more rewatches will clarify what this movie is about (though to be honest its going to be one of those sparingly done rewatches). Fun fact, Darren Aronofsky wrote this screenplay in 5 days and it kinda shows. This movie does seem more Aronofksy wanting to deliver a message than an normal movie and while its not necessarily a bad thing, but I can see how this can annoy some viewers.

There’s not really much to say in terms of characters as they seem to be more representative of ideas, and I can’t go into my thoughts on that because that would of course be in spoiler territory. But I can say that the acting across the board is great. This is one of Jennifer Lawrence’s best performances, we really see the movie from her perspective and we relate to her because they are having the same reaction as the audience, completely and utterly confused at what’s going on. She has to deal with a lot of things and Lawrence delivered that greatly. Javier Bardem is also great, as usual he’s a significant screen presence and for what I think he represents, we was perfect for it. The supporting cast we don’t see a whole lot of, but they do great to make themselves memorable. Ed Harris is good, showing a vulnerable side to him that we don’t usually see from his performances. Michelle Pfeiffer is also fantastic, stealing the scenes that she’s in. The Gleeson brothers (Domhnall and Brian) also show up briefly and despite their short appearances managed to do so much with their performances.

Darren Aronofsky’s direction was a bit interesting. The camera most of the time follows and focuses on Jennifer Lawrence, whether that be up close on her face or over her shoulder. While I get why this was done as it helps highlight how she feels as the movie progresses, at times it can be a little annoying and overused. It does help convey a feeling of claustrophobia however, which helps with the uncomfortableness factor that Darren Aronofsky was going for. Apparently the soundtrack is done by Jóhann Jóhannsson but it honestly doesn’t sound like there was a soundtrack. The sound design however was done very well. Aronofsky also does well to convey a sense of uneasiness, even in just the first two acts, you know that something is not right but you don’t know what it is. As for the disturbing levels of this movie, most of it actually happens in the last act and while most of it is appropriate for the story, there is one moment, really one shot that felt completely unnecessary. They really didn’t need to show that and it felt like it was used for shock value rather than having any form of meaning, which the film for the most part seemed to do. It doesn’t ruin the movie but it does stand out in a very bad way.

I can’t guarantee that you’ll like Mother, it is an unusual and bizarre movie, unconventional in both story and direction, I can’t recommend it to everyone. I don’t blame you if you downright hate it. If you don’t like unconventional movies, stories which are allegorical, I actually think you shouldn’t watch it, because its unlikely that you’ll like it to be honest. Even if you’re fine with those movies I can’t guarantee that you’ll like it. You’ll just have to see for yourself, if you are willing to take the risk. It seems like you’ll either love it or hate it. For me though, it only gets better the more I think about it. Everything from the performances to the unique story is so great and special. This is to me is one of the best films of the year. This is one thing I can say, this is a movie that people will be talking about for a long, long time.