Film review by: Witney Seibold
Yoon Do-joon (Bin Won) is a handsome boy, and, to put it bluntly, retarded. His mother (Hye-ja Kim) dotes on him and defends him and lives for his health and safety. She believes her son is pure and innocent and needs defense from the world. He is not to stand for any mockery of his mental state. Yoon is also sexually mature, and wants desperately to have a relationship with a girl, which isn’t easy in this small Korean town where people are either virgins or sluts, and nothing in between.
Yoon, while stumbling home drunk one late night, caught sight of a crime. Or perhaps he committed it. His memory isn’t that good. Either way, it doesn’t take much for the local police to badger him into a confession, and Yoon is sent off to prison. This sends his mother into a tizzy. Mother, you see, is already barely scraping by as is, selling herbs in a shop, and performing illegal acupuncture on the down-low. No one believes her son is innocent, and, since she is poor, and has a tendency to fly into fits of mild hysteria, no one listens to her either. Mother feels it’s her heroic job to head out into the underworld to find out the truth of what happened.
She uncovers some strange things. Teen girls who have collections of dirty pictures. Corrupt lawyers who regularly patronize prostitutes. Mysterious buns who collect junk. There is a lot of seediness in this town. Mother charges through all of it with a determined gameness, and a mother’s love not seen outside of “Pyscho.”
Soon, however, we start to realize that Mother is not acting out of an altruistic need to clear her innocent some of his crime, but to free her son at all costs. Her hysterical motherlove begins to bull-rush past the details and get straight to the heart of the matter. She’d do anything for her whiny, horny, retarded son.
This film, from Bong Joon-Ho (“The Host”) is simultaneously a gripping thriller and a wickedly dark satirical comedy. The crime may be the thing driving the plot, but the over-the-top, almost comic doting of Mother is what drives the film entire. Hye-ja Kim plays the role not as an innocent old lady, but as that certain brand of determined soul who will stop at nothing, not even run-of-the-mill decency or ethics, to complete her goal. Despite this, though, she is not a dark soul or a cackling villainess. She’s just determined to live a good life with her son.
After all, a boy’s best friend is his mother.