Mamma mia in Korea
Mother, suspense, rated R, in Korean with subtitles, Regal DeVargas, 3 chiles
IThe new film from South Korean filmmaker Joon-ho Bong (who brought us 2006’s socio-ecological horror film The Host), opens and closes with dance scenes. Neither dance is a happy one; both signal a celebration — if that’s what you would call it — of bad choices made with good intentions. Mother is an intricate suspense picture with a strong Hitchcockian feel to it that includes such staples as flashbacks, voyeurism, chases through narrow alleyways, and secretive snooping. Yet it’s still very much its own film, one that may leave you breathless in its ability to surprise.
And brace yourself, because, like The Host, the film alternates shocking scenes of blood and violence with surreally dark comic moments. A hit-and-run (with a dog as victim) is followed by some slapstick on a golf course. You laugh to relieve the tension, and then you’re stopped cold by something as seemingly normal as a nosebleed.
The title character (played by Hye-ja Kim) is an acupuncturist and herbalist who has nothing and no one to claim as her own but a mentally challenged son named Yoon Do-joon (Bin Won). Theirs is a strong bond: they sleep together (not incestuously, as far as we can tell), and, as she cryptically tells him at one point, “You and I are one.” Mother doesn’t seem to be particularly good