Stars: Song Kang-ho, Gang Dong-won, Lee Ji-eun, Bae Doona, Lee Joo-young, Im Seung-soo
Writer-director Koreeda’s second picture outside of Japan, following the disappointing showbiz-adjacent French drama ‘The Truth’, is a typically humane ensemble piece meets road movie set in South Korea.
It begins with a young woman So-young (Lee Ji-eun) leaving her baby in a church’s baby box, a secure device desperate mothers can leave their children in for pick-up, with a note saying that she will return for the child.
Charity worker Dong-soo (‘Train to Bhutan: Peninsula’s’ Gang Dong-won) and his accomplice Sang-Hyun (‘Parasite’s’ Song Kang-ho) a laundry shop owner deep in debt, steal the baby with plans to sell it on to needy wannabe parents. The baby broker’s rationale is that as only a fraction of mothers return to pick up their children leaving them stuck in the system, it’s better to pass them on to appreciative parents.
The next day a remorseful So-young returns to retrieve her baby. She is about to call the police when Sang-hyun and Dong-soo confess their crime and invite her to accompany them on a trip to meet the potential parents so she can be reassured her child is going to a good home. En route, they pick up a stowaway, the endearingly cheeky seven-year-old Hae-jin (Im Seung-soo). On their trail are two police detectives (Doona Bae and Lee Joo-young) looking to catch them in the act.
Shades of the director’s masterful 2018 film ‘Shoplifters’ in the touching depiction of flawed outsiders forming a surrogate family unit, although the ever even-handed and empathetic Koreeda’s generous take on child traffickers, bolstered by the presence of the affable Song Kang-ho as the ringleader, may prove a big ask for certain viewers. Receptive cinematography from ‘Parasite’s’ Hong Kyung-pyo, who worked on ‘Parasite’ ranges from noirish downpours in the opening to light rural spaces as the group make their journey, while composer Jung Jae-il’s versatile score ranges from plaintive solos to stirring full orchestral accompaniment. Despite the slightly busy script and melodramatic revelation about one of the characters midway, Koreeda maintains an air of exquisite melancholy and tentative hope.
Broker is released on 24th February
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