Broker – Film Review

Broker – Film Review

Director: Hirokazu Koreeda
Cinematography: Hong Kyung-pyo
Screenplay: Hirokazu Koreeda
Starring: Song Kang-ho (Sang-hyeon), Gang Dong-won (Dong-soo) Bae Doona (Soo-jin) , Ji-eun Lee (So-young) Lee Joo-young (Detective Lee) Seung-soo Im (Hae-jin)

Duration 130 minutes 

In so many of our stories, right and wrong are clearly defined. Our response is prescribed in our own understanding and often reflected in our law.  It is easier to respond when you have already predetermined who is wrong and who is right. This film challenges all of that.

Filmed in South Korea, where a Christian Church has a 24-hour ‘baby box’ where children can be anonymously placed. The Church cares for them, but some cannot be adopted for a range of legal reasons.

We meet two of the Church volunteers played by Song Kang-ho (Sang-hyeon) and  Gang Dong-won (Dong-soo) who step in, when the child is left on the pavement in front of the box, or they erase the evidence of the latest baby to arrive during their voluntary shift and proceed to make their own arrangements for the child’s future.

Kang-ho won Best Actor at Cannes, but I was equally impressed with Dong-wan as they partnered on an unpalatable journey, perhaps until we get to know their motivation. I could not have separated their performances for an award.

There are so many instances along the way to challenge you. The cinematography captures subtle gestures and expressions and shows them to you.

The duo are involved in child trafficking but as their different motivations unfold, it is perhaps’ not all about the money’.  Is that sufficient to redeem them? Broker gives us an insight into abandoned children, some adopted, and some remain in the care of the State in South Korea. We meet a myriad of adults who care for or need a child, some already having endured difficult circumstances. What is refreshing is the obvious care and concern for the ‘abandoned’ child from a range of characters, arising from personal experiences of abandonment or loss.

Ji-eun Lee’s (So-young), the young mother has a guilty secret. Her recent past has disadvantaged her circumstances and she finds herself in an increasingly complex underworld. She has a baby sought after by others and leaves the boy in the Church refuge for safety. ‘Woo Sung’ the baby boy is a scene stealer throughout.

The film looks at the law, enforcement, entrapment, and abortion versus abandonment as an option for a young mother in dire straits. There are competing elements pursuing our ‘brokers’ and the mother and baby, add to that an adorable orphan Hae-Jin (Seung-soo Im) and out of abandonment an ‘accidental family’ is formed. There is love in the underscore of these complex people and their diverse pasts.

The skill of the storytelling is to explore the often emotional backstories that lead people to take the destinies of abandoned children into their own hands. Social attitudes are at war and we learn that there is welfare available before birth, but only police after.

There is learning on this unfolding journey for all involved. An appreciation of the decisions of the past, loss and separation and a new courage to alter the future is at many stages of the story. It is never too late.

This slow and deliberately unfolding tale is gentle and heart-warming in so many places. The care in the holding of the child by the men is emotional. In fact, it is noticed that despite their unlawful intent, people can be ‘so nice’, and they are.

There is a lot of love in this film. A lot of courage and a huge challenge to our natural abillity to jump to a negative conclusion. It turns the lawful world upside down, but only because we get an intimate and revealing insight into the central characters.

Broker is a rich and rewarding experience, beautifully played, staged and told. There is a human magic on screen that reinforces the ability of film, even a sub-titled film, to engage, emote and surprise. Brokers (and there are many in this script) is beautifully crafted and much more than it seems. ‘I am glad that you were born’.

Categories: Header, Movie Review, Movies

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