I noticed during the ending credits that, before getting to the traditional list of all cast members and character names, this film goes out of its way to describe its main character simply as Mother (played by Han Hye-sook). The woman has a name, of course, and it's mentioned in the subsequent actual credits sequence- but it's appropriate that she is initially described in this limited way, since in the context of the film, that's all she really is. Just a mother.
Most of this movie can be easily described as just being about the daily everyday adventures of a mother and her son as they go about their everyday lives. When a conflict does finally arise late in the movie, the emotional feelings involved are painful, and yet everything is resolved fairly straightforwardly. A couple of beautiful metaphors later, any apprehension about what the son might have done are eased away by this peaceful feeling of acceptance in a universe capable of genuine love.
This is especially true in the present-day part of the story, where the old version of the son (played by director Hah Myung-joong) journeys to make his final statement as a loving filial child- and as he journeys, we also see just how deep the parallels of his old life and current life run. The love he received from his mother has substantially created the person that we see today. And while we only see hints about what the son has done with his life to influence the world, in the one place that matters most, the progress of his mother's philosophy to a new generation is unmistakable.
The way director Ha Myeong-Joon injects this story with heart and warmth is incredible. In lesser hands this story could have easily hit a level of creepiness, such as when the Mother gets jealous of her son finding a new person with which to share the intimacies of live. Ever had a disapproving parent seem to hate a boy/girlfriend just on general principle? This film explains why it might seem that way.
It also makes the strong case that, however much negative emotions might impact an immediate moment, going back through the treasure trove of memories, and going back to see how many times a parent truly did something for you that they did not have to do, just out of sheer love and devotion, is a humbling moment of true unparalleled joy. That is what love is. It means a willingness to endure any kind of humiliation to lessen that other special person's pain. It's accepting that burden of suffering, not out of martyrdom, but because anything other choice would be inconceivable.
"Mother" is a love story. And like any good one, it doesn't end just because tragedy erupts or the movie inevitably stops filming. "Mother" inspires its viewer to believe that love can and should be an infinite condition, something that can flow on indefinitely, and that ignores definitions as irrelevant and rigid as what might be found in a dictionary. Any person who can fully comprehend the depth of the intimacy and warmth demonstrated by the characters in this film is a person worthy of envy.
Review by William Schwartz
Staff writer. Has been writing articles for HanCinema since 2012, having lived in South Korea since 2011. Started out in Gyeongju, then to Daegu, then to Ansan, then to Yeongju, then to Seoul, lived on the road for HanCinema's travel diaries series in the summer of 2016, and is currently settled in Anyang. Has good tips for utilizing South Korea's public bus system. William Schwartz can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[HanCinema's Film Review] "Mother" + Giveaway"
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