Exeter, Devon UK • Apr 16, 2024 • VOL XII

Exeter, Devon UK • [date-today] • VOL XII
Home ScreenInternational Screens International Cinema Spotlight: “Mother” by Bong Joon-ho (2009)

International Cinema Spotlight: “Mother” by Bong Joon-ho (2009)

Magdalena Kanecka discusses the beautiful directing of Oscar winning director Bong Joon-ho.
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In recent years, South Korea especially has seen a huge rise in its soft power through the rising popularity of K-dramas, Korean directors, along with the ongoing and never-ending popularity of K-pop – and rightfully so, K-pop, K-dramas and I go way back to when I was just turning fourteen, so I will never not be happy to talk about them! Hence, I aim to present to you a great starting point if you are only just getting into Korean cinema – and that is the author and director of the spectacular 2019 movie “Parasite” – Bong Jong-Ho.

Hence, I aim to present to you a great starting point if you are only just getting into Korean cinema – and that is the author and director of the spectacular 2019 movie “Parasite” – Bong Jong-Ho.

With Bong Joon-Ho winning the 2020 Oscars for Best Director and Best International Feature Film with “Parasite”, and with the same movie further succeeding in the 2020 Golden Globe Awards as a Best Foreign Language Film, it makes sense to conclude that international cinema is finally getting increased mainstream recognition amongst Western, English-speaking media.

While “Parasite” or “Memories of Murder” are most definitely up there for me in terms of Bong Joon-Ho’s work, “Mother” remains an all-time favourite of mine. The psychological drama-thriller does an amazing job of constantly keeping you on edge without the jump scares that horror movies often provoke. With its 89% Audience Satisfaction Score, the movie dives into the story of the title’s financially struggling “Mother” (whose name we never learn) of a disabled boy who is wrongly accused of murdering a girl. The widow desperately searches for ways of proving her son to be innocent as he is found to have been at the scene of the murder on his way back from a night at a bar with his friend. 

The psychological drama-thriller does an amazing job of constantly keeping you on edge without the jump scares that horror movies often provoke.

The general themes of the movie exemplify the ableism the son faces from his peers, along with a murder-mystery feel as the story of the murder develops. The financial struggles of single-parent families in South Korea are also further demonstrated. Yet, the most touching element of the movie to me, however, remains in the central theme of motherly love – the mother is so desperate to free his son from an act he did not commit that she puts it as her priority, which remains highly touching right from the start to the very end of the 128-minute running time of the movie.

However, personally, the main struggle I experience as a fan of Korean cinema and Korean media in general is often the struggle of waiting for subtitles or translations or their possible inaccuracies. These films cannot act as background noise unless, like me, you manage to pick up on the most common Korean words and phrases the more you consume the said media. Thus, whereas the quality of Bong’s movies in terms of production storylines, and the secondary meanings and implications are top-tier, waiting for translations and subtitles is definitely an undermining factor that can put others off. However, the wait is most certainly worth it, and as the popular saying goes – the best things come to those who wait! 

I would highly recommend “Mother” if you are looking for an eery and engaging movie that will keep you on the edge of your seat the more you watch. The contexts and themes of each of Bong Joon-Ho’s writings only make them more enjoyable, valuable, and engaging, and are so rich they could be a Screen article of their own.

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