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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover



Starring: Kim Hye-ja, Won Bin and Jin Ku
Optimum Home Entertainment
RRP: £22.99
Certificate: 15
Available 20 September 2010

In a small Korean town, Do-joon (Won Bin) is a man slow of intellect and in his late twenties who lives with his mother, Hye-ja (Kim Hye-ja). Their relationship is close enough for them to share a bed. When Do-joon is nearly run over playing with his dog in the road a series of events are put into motion which ends with the death of a local schoolgirl. Do-Joon is accused of the murder and a golf ball with his name, which is found at the crime scene, appear to point the finger at him, but his mother refuses to believe that her son was responsible and sets out on a quest to clear his name...

Mother (2009 - 2 hrs, 08 min, 58 sec) is a psychological thriller masterfully directed by Joon-ho Bong. The film represented South Korea's official submission to 82nd Academy Award's Foreign Language in 2010.

Kim Hye-ja is a very well respected actress in South Korea and the film was designed especially with her in mind, as it turns out this was a great idea as she creates a riveting intense performance as the old lady who will do literally anything to clear her son's name. As she travels around what should be a sleepy and uninteresting small village she uncovers the secrets which hide behind the closed doors. This allows the director to continually challenge your preconceptions about who is guilty of the supposedly innocent girl's death.

Her performance is so strong that it is easy to forget Won Bin who also puts in a convincing performance as the son who is being smothered by his mother's overpowering love, smothered enough to admit to a murder that he did not commit, just to get away from her, or even to actually commit a murder, the audience never knows until the last fifteen minutes. Joon-ho Bong continually teases flipping the possibilities of his guilt or innocence back and forth.

The director obviously enjoys being playful with the audience and subverts our expectations of the film almost immediately by starting with a shot of Kim Hye-ja in a large corn field. She walks towards the camera and stares straight through the fourth wall, a rumba starts on the sound track and Kim moves and sways as if being controlled by some other force, she laughs, behind her hand, slowly her dance becomes more fluid, more joyous. As quickly as it started it abruptly stops, cutting to mother working in her herb shop - a real WTF moment. Stay with the film and the opening makes perfect sense.

The blu-ray version of the film arrives in a 2.35:1 AVC/MPEG-4 1080p/24 encoding, the picture is sharp with a muted colour palette. Much of the Korean DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack is front heavy giving a detailed dialogue track, occasionally the music or some ambient sound will break out of the surrounds. There is an additional Korean 2.0 stereo track, both tracks have optional English subtitles.

The disc comes with a number of extras, the chief of which is Making of Mother (42 min, 58 sec) which give a detailed look at making the film, with contributions from cast and crew. Next up is The Transformation of Hye-ja Kim (7 min, 01 sec) with Kim talking about how she approached the role and her dislike for the concept of transformation, but transformation is what she did. The actress looks about thirty years younger than her character. The disc is wrapped up with the original trailer (1 min, 39 sec) and Cast and Crew Reflect (5 min, 54 sec) which does what it says on the can.

This is a masterfully made film with compelling performances and a plot which will keep you guessing right to the end. It’s a shame the extras were so skimpy.


Charles Packer

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