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Mother (Blu-ray Review)

I was excited when I got the word that I would be reviewing Mother, the new film by Bong Joon-Ho, writer and director of the amazing genre-bending film The Host. In the past few weeks I’d seen various promotional material about Mother which included stills and the trailer.  After watching the trailer, I made the assumption that Mother was going to be a straightforward murder-mystery.  Even the theatrical trailer makes it seem like it’s a straightforward murder mystery tale.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Film 

* Disclaimer – Mother is the name of the main character, therefore, whenever the title of the film is mentioned in this review, it will be in italics in order to not confuse readers.

Mother (Kim Hye-ja) is a single devoted parent who would do anything for her son, Do-joon (Bin Won), who is a bit on the simple minded side.  Do-joon is a twenty seven year old man who is constantly getting into trouble.  You can’t blame him, because he operates on a different plain of existence.  This, at times, is hard for Mother, since she has to work in a spice shop, and freelance in acupuncture treatments.  She can’t keep an eye on him all the time.

One night, after some heavy drinking, Do-joon sees and follows a young woman and tries to stir up some conversation, but nothing comes of his advances.  The very next day the same girl is found dead and placed over a balcony, bent over, on display for everyone to see.  The body was placed in a way, as to suggest, she was being made an example of.  It’s a horrific crime.  Since Do-joon was the last person to see the young woman alive, he’s quickly questioned, interrogated, and incarcerated.  Literally, one, two, and three.  Mother finds out about this and goes to great lengths to find out who the real murderer is, so she can free her son before he’s completely destroyed prison.

Okay, first things first…Mother is going on my top-ten list of best films of the year.  Mother borders on masterpiece territory.  Remember when I said that I thought this film was going to be straightforward and not complicated?  Well, it’s not complicated, but it is far from straightforward.  You know you’re in for a ride just in the opening.  Director Bong Joon-Ho injects bits of satire, comedy, horror yet again into his latest film.  He also adds bits of social commentary.  How can the police in this province just convict a mentally disabled man for a crime that they so inadequately investigated in the first place? Is this Bong Joon-Ho’s view on the legal system? The police?

Besides the points mentioned, Mother is a brutal portrayal of a parent who would do anything for her child.  Mother’s quest for justice knows no bounds.  I was so impressed by the performances in Mother, because every character’s emotions were genuine.  There is such great acting to be found in this film.

I give Mother my highest possible recommendation.  It’s your duty to seek this great film out.

Video 

Mother is presented in 1080p 16X9 (2.35:1).  I’ll give Mother the benefit of the doubt and give it three and half stars.  Whether the film was shot in a drab and hazy style on purpose is open to debate.  There are plenty of amazing compositions which should be popping with life-like color that aren’t.  Mother’s color palette is very primary rich but aren’t in the exploding of color realm.  They’re very subdued.  The other drawback is the black levels.  At times, they come off as hazy and soft.  There’s almost a grayish tint to them, like dirty water.  Again, whether this is the director or cinematographer’s intent, I’m not sure.

Audio 

Mother is presented in Korean 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio with English subtitles.  Unlike the questionable video, this track rocks.  It’s clean, crisp, and dynamic.  Pouring rain never sounded so good!  The surround channels and LFE are extremely discrete during the rain parts and they don’t sound muddled at all.  The LFE channel handles the thunder beautifully.  Spoken dialogue is clear and easy to listen to.  It’s a very aggressive and lively soundtrack, but without harshness, if you get my my meaning.  Mother earns an easy four star in the AQ department.

Special Features

All of the special features with the exception of the Magnolia promotional material are in standard definition.  I give props to Magnolia for including these extensive documentaries.  This is like the third or fourth Magnolia release that contains a making of documentary that runs about the same length as the film itself.  Kudos on that.  Still, bonus features need to start being in HD.

  • Making of MotherThis is the best feature on the disc.  It’s a 90 minute, English subtitled making-of documentary.  It is thorough.
  • A Look at Actress Kim Hye-ja – An actor profile on the lead actress and why she was chosen to play Mother.
  • Behind the Scenes – In case you missed the first documentary on the making-of, here’s a shorter behind the scenes featurette.
  • Production Design Featurette – This featurette goes into detail on the environments in Mother.
  • Supporting Actors FeaturetteMother’s supporting actors go into detail about working with such a distinguished cast and crew.
  • Cinematography Featurette – This featurette focuses on the look of Mother.
  • Music Score Featurette – Conversation with the music composer of Mother.
  • Trailers and HDNET Promo – Various Magnolia trailers and an HDNET spot.

Final Thoughts

Don’t let the final grade fool you.  Mother is a four and a half star picture trapped in a three and a half star blu-ray.  If you want to familiarize yourself with the director’s style I recommend that you watch The Host just to get you warmed up.  Mother is a tour de force and is required viewing in this day and age of cookie cutter nonsense.

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Bring home Mother on  Blu-ray!

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Gerard Iribe is a writer/reviewer for Why So Blu?. He has also reviewed for other sites like DVD Talk, Project-Blu, and CHUD, but Why So Blu? is where the heart is. You can follow his incoherency on Twitter: @giribe

2 Responses to “Mother (Blu-ray Review)”


  1. Gerard Iribe

    Yes, this is worth a blind-buy, IMO.

  2. Brian White

    Why do I keep thinking of Danzig? I’m skeptical. I turned The Host off when watching it.