(Movie Review) Another Unconventional Family, Another Award-Winning Kore-eda Prank

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SEOUL, June 02 (Yonhap) — Japanese author Hirokazu Kore-eda is famous for his 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 film “Shoplifters,” which won him the highest honor of the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, depicts a group of thieves learning to care for each other with a sharp, down-to-earth eye.

Four years later, the director returns with another family-themed film, “Broker,” this time with Korean production and casting. It also revolves around a group of criminals – baby traffickers and a murderer – who become a family.

The film begins with a young mother dropping her baby into a church-run baby box in the pouring rain.

The baby is kidnapped by Dong-soo (Gang Dong-won), a part-time church babysitter, to sell him to desperate parents in a plot with Sang-hyun (Song Kang-ho), a man middle-aged. which has a small and old laundromat.

Sang-hyun and Dong-soo don’t feel guilty, thinking they’re good guys at helping abandoned children find decent families, pocketing money for their troubles.

But their secret plan becomes complicated when the baby’s mother, So-young (Lee Ji-eun, also known as K-pop star IU), changes her mind and shows up a day later.

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

So the team, including a football-mad little boy who later hitches a ride, sets off in a dented van in search of ideal adoptive parents who can give the baby a loving home and give him a good amount of money.

As their journey unfolds in a funny and gnarly style, they are closely followed by a pair of police detectives led by Su-jin (Bae Doo-na), who continue to investigate Sang-hyun and Dong-soo. for human trafficking.

Predictably, the little clique becomes a family, although they won’t admit it. After meeting with several would-be 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 like this.

The plan to sell Woo-sung for a good price is derailed due to the development of their emotions and relationship.

“Broker” constantly shows the contradictory behaviors of the main characters and asks questions about life, motherhood and family.

Sang-hyun plots to kidnap Woo-sung and sell him for the best price, but still says he wants the child not to live a life of want like him.

So-young joins Sang-hyun’s journey to sell his child and shows no care or affection for him throughout the journey. But she refuses the first potential buyer who complains about the poor appearance of the baby.

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

But the narrative is discursive and meandering because each character’s secret motivations, which play a significant role in revealing their mixed feelings of rejection and affection, are not woven sophisticatedly into the main theme of creating an improvised family of outlaws.

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

“Broker” hits South Korean screens on Wednesday.

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