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(Movie Review) Another unconventional family, another award-winning farce for Kore-eda

All News 08:07 June 02, 2022

By Kim Boram

SEOUL, June 2 (Yonhap) -- Japanese auteur Hirokazu Kore-eda is famous for bittersweet and nuanced dramas about unconventional families in his critically acclaimed films like "Still Walking" (2008), "Like Father, Like Son" (2013) and "After the Storm" (2016).

His 2018 movie "Shoplifters," which brought him the Cannes Film Festival's highest honor of the Palme d'Or, depicts a group of thieves learning how to take care of each other with an acute and realistic eye.

Four years later, the director returned with another family-themed film, "Broker," this time with a Korean production and cast. It also revolves around a group of criminals -- baby traffickers and a murderer -- becoming a family.

This image provided by CJ ENM shows a scene from "Broker." (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

The movie begins with a young mother dropping off her infant at a baby box operated by a church in the pouring rain.

The baby is snatched up by Dong-soo (Gang Dong-won), a part-time babysitter at the church, to sell him to desperate parents in a conspiracy with Sang-hyun (Song Kang-ho), a middle-aged man who owns a small, old laundromat.

Sang-hyun and Dong-soo feel no guilt, thinking they are good guys in helping abandoned kids find decent families, pocketing some money for their troubles.

But their secretive plan gets complicated as the baby's mother, So-young (Lee Ji-eun, also known as the K-pop star IU), has a change of heart and shows up a day later.

Sang-hyun decides to let So-young take part in his plan to sell the newborn named Woo-sung, saying buyers tend to like having the baby's biological mother there.

This image provided by CJ ENM shows a scene from "Broker." (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

So the team, including a small, football-crazed boy who later hitches a ride, sets off in a beat-up van in search of ideal adoptive parents who can give the baby a loving home and them a good sum of money.

As their journey goes in a funny and knotty style, they are closely tailed by a pair of police detectives led by Su-jin (Bae Doo-na), who keeps probing into Sang-hyun and Dong-soo on charges of human trafficking.

Predictably, the small clique becomes a family, although they don't admit it. After meeting several candidate parents, Sang-hyun and Dong-soo feel they don't want to let the baby go, while So-young increasingly thinks it's OK to live with them together this way.

The plan to sell Woo-sung for a good price goes off the rails due to their developing emotions and relationships.

This image provided by CJ ENM shows a scene from "Broker." (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

"Broker" keeps showing contradictory behaviors of the main characters and asking questions about life, motherhood and family.

Sang-hyun plots to kidnap Woo-sung and sell him for the best price but always says he wants the kid not to live a life of need like himself.

So-young joins Sang-hyun's journey to sell her child and shows no care or affection for him throughout the trip. But she turns down the first potential buyer who complains of the baby's not-so-good appearance.

Actor Song Kang-ho deservedly won the Best Actor prize at this year's Cannes Film Festival for his portrayal of Sang-hyun, an avuncular but cold-blooded criminal, in such a subtle way that people cannot easily judge whether he is right or wrong.

But the narrative is discursive and meandering as each character's secret motives, which play an important role in revealing their mixed feelings of rejection and affection, are not sophisticatedly woven into the main theme of creating a makeshift family of outlaws.

Some people, however, may feel uncomfortable watching a crime turn into a form of salvation and the characters being easily forgiven.

"Broker" will hit South Korean screens Wednesday.

A poster of Hirokazu Kore-eda's "Broker" provided by CJ ENM (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)


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