This weekend I had the opportunity to see Joon-ho Bong's lastest film, MOTHER. The film has a one-week limited engagement in Milwaukee and comes with a lot of hype and positive reviews. I'm not a big follower of the Asian film market; I'm even less familiar with the South Korean film market, but I am acquainted with Bong's films, so I was very excited to see his latest. His last feature THE HOST gained a lot of attention and for good reason. It's a touching, scary, and funny monster movie with a great cast. MEMORIES OF MURDER precedes it and is just as good, if not better. I went into the MOTHER screening with high expectations, thinking I would see something similar in quality. I was underwhelmed.
The film has been marketed as a thriller and often called one in reviews. I didn't find it to be all that thrilling. Bong is visually brilliant, creating a dark, moody atmosphere with some great compositions of rural landscapes, but the content is just so empty. For a while, the film seems to be subtly hinting at a story about dubious police work and the subjugation of the lower-class, but it shifts into a story about the Mother's hair-brained investigation into the murder that her mentally-challenged son is accused of. It's supposed to have this noirish feel (which I felt was forced), but the clues and interrogations are just so convenient and accessible. Mother doesn't really seem to struggle for the information she obtains, nor does she take very much time. The "twisted" revelation at the end has been called "hitchcockian" by some reviewers, but I found it all-to-expected. The red herrings are telegraphed because it doesn't seem as though the film wants to commit to exploring them. The first outcome that I predicted is the exact one I got, which is sad, I like surprises.
I know it's supposed to be a big deal how Mother goes above and beyond for her son through the very end, but since no one else in the film acts like a real human being would, it makes her actions seem empty. There's no gravity to her behavior because it's only to be expected out of the film's zany characters. The ending bit about memory was also heavily telegraphed and seemed to be taking a cue from MEMENTO, a legit noir.
Needless to say, I was surprised at how much I disliked this film. I'm disappointed in Bong as I believe he's a much better craftsman than this film showed. It just seems as though disappointment is becoming a trend among 2010 releases. I still suggest you see the film yourself, if you find the time. Chances are you'll disagree with me as most critics are singing MOTHER's praises. The film currently holds an impressive 94% on Rotten Tomatoes with only five negative reviews.
On the docket for the next couple weeks (hopefully):
IRON MAN 2
THE SECRET IN THEIR EYES (Oscar's Best Foreign Film)
Maybe I'll get out to see KICK-ASS finally, but my interest is waning.
Perhaps BIRDEMIC too if I'm bored.
That's right, BIRDEMIC - check out the trailer!
BIRDEMIC will get its Milwaukee Premiere at Midnight on May 15th at the Oriental.