wed 17/07/2024

Broker review - baby-selling in South Korea | reviews, news & interviews

Broker review - baby-selling in South Korea

Broker review - baby-selling in South Korea

Hirokazu Kore-eda delicately balances comedy, pathos and humanism in his new drama

Unconventional child rearing: Lee Ji-un, Gang Dong-won and Song Kang-ho

The Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda  chose to make Broker in South Korea, with Parasite star, Song Kang-ho. He plays one of two dodgy chaps who make a living selling abandoned babies to desperate couples.

Although the landscape is different – their business sees them driving a minivan all over the country – the sly sentiment that informs Kore-eda’s style will be familiar to the audiences that loved his earlier films, including Shoplifters, which won the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 2018. 

Broker isn’t as obviously quirky as Shoplifters, which was the story of a household of petty criminals ranging from a granny to school kids. Despite its international success, the movie piqued audiences in Japan unused to seeing urban poverty portrayed on screen. This time there’s only one cute child actor embroiled in the plot of Broker (unless you count the baby they’re trying to hawk). But there’s the same ambiguity about morals and motivation and the same gentle challenging of an audience used to clear-cut heroes and villains.

Broker starts in Busan where a church orphanage encourages desperate mothers to leave their babies in a box in the wall. The social stigma of being an unmarried mother has led to many such baby boxes in South Korea. Kore-eda, who made a film in Japan about adoption, Like Father, Like Son found this phenomenon fascinating. He cast Gang Dong-won (so great in Train to Busan) as a man who runs a laundry nearby. His friend Dong-Soo works at the church orphanage part time and together they stake out and intercept abandoned babies. They’re not heartless, Dong-Soo grew up in an orphanage and the pair see their business as not only lucrative, but a way of creating families. They like to think of themselves as playing Cupid, or better still, the Stork.

But things don’t go according to plan when a young mother, Su-jin (Lee Ji-un above left) comes back for her infant and decides she wants a say in who buys the baby boy and a cut in the deal. There’s also a couple of tired lady police officers (shades of Fargo) on the trail of the brokers, who are soon hitting the road in search of the perfect adoptive parents. They find an unexpected stowaway in the minivan -  a cheeky eight-year-old boy (Im Seung-soo above right) from the orphanage who would quite like the pair to find him new parents too. 

It all leads to a series of adventures as the baby sellers discover that not all the prospective mums and dads are quite what they seem. And Su-jin has to decide whether she really wants to give up her child. Lee Ji-un, the Korean pop star better known by her stage name IU, is a revelation as Su-jin, alternating between damaged cynicism and vulnerability as she sings a lullaby to her baby. 

Quite how Kore-eda manages to make a film that combines road movie, crime caper and old school humanist observation is hard to describe, but it makes Broker a rare pleasure. 

the pair see their business as not only lucrative, but a way of creating families


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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