Japanese film maker Hirokazu Kore-eda continues his journey around the world creating films. His latest film Broker now takes him closer to home and South Korea.
His previous film The Truth starred Catherine DeNeuve, Juliette Binoche and Ethan Hawke in his French and English language debut.
Cinephiles who love their world cinema and arthouse films will know the Japanese auteur especially from his films Shoplifters, Little Sister, Like Father Like Son, Still Walking and Air Doll.
Starring Song Kang-Ho, whom people will know from the Oscar-winning film Parasite, as well as creature feature such as The Host and Snowpiercer, alongside Gang Dong-Wan (from the Train To Busan sequel) and Bae Doona (known for Air Doll, as well as The Wachowski’s Cloud Atlas and Netflix’s Sense8 series, to name a few).
Broker opens up on a rainy night in Busan, young girl (Ji-eun Lee)leaves her baby outside a baby box. A service and safe place set up by Korean churches set up for new mothers to leave their unwanted infants.
Instead, the baby was picked up by Sang-hyun (Song Kang-ho) who runs an unofficial adoption brokerage and plans to find him a new home.
Observing from a distance are two female cops: Soo-jin (played by Bae Doona) and Detective Lee (played by Lee Joo-young). They are trying to catch both Sang-hyun and his business partner Dong-soo (played by Gang Dong-won) in the act and arrest them.
We learn that the young girl is called So-young. The following day, she has second thoughts and wants her baby back. She learns that the baby wasn’t taken inside the church and begins to search for him. She tracks him down to a dry cleaner, which serves as Sang-hyun and Dong-soo’s brokering headquarters.
So-young learns of the plans for her baby (now known to be called Woo-sung) and threatens to call the police after discovering that the men are involved in illegal adoptions for couples unable to become parents due to various reasons. Eventually, So-young decides to join their pursuit alongside a seven-year-old stowaway from a nearby orphanage. She wants to ensure that her son ends up with the right family.
Unaware that they are being tailed by two detectives who are still determined to stop them, they embark on a road journey.
When someone described Broker to me, they were describing the film as a ‘Korean Little Miss Sunshine’, It’s nothing like it all.
Kore-eda seems to tap into human frailties and the concept of family units in this film, as well as in all his other movies. These families are often on the edges of society and outside the traditional family unit. No one in this film is perfect, but they all have good intentions and must navigate the red tape of Korean bureaucracy.
Sang-hyun and Dong-soo hide their activities by using the dry cleaners as a front, but they also volunteer at their local church. This gives them access to the church’s security cameras, which they delete to aid their scam. So-young also has several secrets which I won’t spoil, but you learn about them as the film progresses.
If you went by the synopsis of Broker, you might think you are in for a dark and twisted thriller, given the men’s involvement in illegal adoption. However, the film is presented in a restrained and understated way, which leads to an unexpected outcome.
Broker won’t be for everyone. It may be a little contrived at times, but what Hirokazu Kore-eda does is give us a gentle, exquisite, and tender film.
Drama, Comedy | South Korea, 2022 | 15 | Blu-ray, DVD, Digital | 5th June 2023 (UK) | Picturehouse Entertainment | Dir.Hirokazu Kore-eda | Song Kang-ho, Gang Dong-won, Bae Doona, Ju-eun Lee
Originally posted at Chronicles In Film 7th March 2023.