A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Mother -- also known as Madeo -- is a Korean (with English subtitles) black comedy-drama with violence, strong language, and themes of a sexual nature. The movie is written and directed by Bong Joon-ho whose Parasite won the Best Picture Oscar in 2020. After Yoon Do-joon (Won Bin) -- a man who has learning difficulties -- becomes the main suspect in a high-profile murder case because of the circumstantial evidence against him, his mother (Kim Hye-ja) tries to track down the real killer. There are several incidences of people sustaining injuries that draw blood, most notably when a character is kicked in the face and loses a tooth. Another character is attacked with a wrench, which causes his death, before his house is burned down. There is strong -- and sexual -- language throughout. Male characters discuss female characters having sex using mocking and degrading words and phrases, with one young character referred to as having "schoolgirl p---y." There is one sex scene where both characters appear nude with their top halves clearly visible. There are also suggestive photos, some of which include characters having partially clothed sex. Characters are regularly seen drinking -- sometimes to excess -- as well as smoking.
What's the story?
MOTHER follows a mother's (Kim Hye-ja) attempts to free her son, Yoon Do-joon (Won Bin) from jail in a small town in South Korea, after he is accused of murdering a local schoolgirl. Her disappointment and frustration with how poorly the authorities handle her son's case drives her to take increasingly desperate measures to free him.
Is it any good?
Much like writer and director Bong Joon-ho's Oscar-winning Parasite, this film is an unflinching satire of South Korea's failing institutions. Mother (or Madeo to give it its original title) also examines how disempowered people often resort to tactics that cross moral and legal lines. Skilfully shot with rich cinematography, it wastes no time drawing the viewer into the characters' world. Their frustrations form both the moral center and the emotional core of the movie.
However, the first hour is both slow and light on plot, which makes for a frustrating viewing. That it leans heavily on the broad comic performances that undercut several of Bong's movies results in a heavy-handed portrayal of the problems vulnerable people face in their everyday lives, too. The ending is stark and memorable, but overall this is an uneven watch, most likely to be enjoyed only by Bong's most dedicated fans.
Talk to your kids about ...
How is sex depicted in the movie? What values are imparted?
Talk about the strong language in the movie. Does it seem necessary or excessive? What does it contribute to the movie? Did the subtitles make a difference to the impact of the language?
Discuss the movie's portrayal of learning disabilities. How is the character of Yoon Do-joon treated by people? What more could have been done to help him when he is accused of murder?
Talk about the mobile phones and handheld recording devices used in the movie. How is tech different today, and how would smartphones likely have changed the course of the movie's criminal investigation?
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