A young lady decides to give up her newborn child to a church for adoption but discovers that there is an active group which steals these children for sale.
The latest movie from Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda, ‘Broker‘, takes him on a brief trip across the water to South Korea, where he unites with ‘Parasite’ star Song Kang-ho to tell the story of a group of characters who act as brokers for the sale of unwanted infants. Song plays Ha Sang-hyeon, the owner of a launderette who makes extra money on the side by collecting babies who are dropped off at a baby box at a local church (who knew this was a thing!?) and selling them on the adoption black market. He’s assisted in this by his ‘business partner’ Dong-soo (Gang Dong-won) and a child (Hae-jin, played by Im Seung-soo) from the local nursery where Dong-soo works. Unbeknownst to them, they are being tracked by a couple of police detectives (Bae Doona and Lee Joo-youn), who hope to catch them in the act of selling a child.
Kore-eda’s films have often focused on unorthodox family units and how outsiders can find commonality with one another through a shared goal, no matter how odd it may appear to most people. In ‘Shoplifters’, it was shoplifting, and in ‘Broker’, it’s working together to find a good home for an abandoned child. In ‘Broker’, we see this materialise when a young woman (Moon So-young, played by Lee Ji-eun) who has left her baby in one of the baby boxes regrets her decision and comes back to catch them in the act. She decides to join them on a road trip to find new parents for the child, on the proviso that she has final say on the suitability of the parents. There are reasons as to why Moon So-young behaves in this manner that we will discover as the narrative unfolds.
This is a really, really warm and moving movie, typical of Kore-eda’s work, and I found myself really caring for all of the characters regardless of their past (or present) sins. It is a movie that explores with sensitivity the ethics of how Ha Sang-hyeon and Dong-soo are operating, questioning their morals and how they justify their actions to themselves while allowing us to see that they do care deep down – even if it doesn’t stop them. The detective angle adds a bit of tension to proceedings that I think worked well, and the tragedy of Moon So-young’s story is well told. If there’s a criticism of Kore-eda, it’s that every one of his characters has a heart of gold deep down which is perhaps not realistic to the topic he’s exploring. It mostly works because of the good writing and charming performances, but there’s a bit of the Ken Loach about his approach where he is unable or unwilling to judge his characters more harshly and some would say justly for their actions.
‘Broker’ is another super film from Hirozaku Kore-eda which both moved me and had me smiling, often at the same time, and I really thought this was a brilliant piece of thought provoking cinema.
Directed By: Hirokazu Kore-eda
Starring: Song Kang-ho, Gang Dong-won, Bae Doona, Lee Ji-eun, Lee Joo-young, Park Ji-yong, Im Seung-soo and Kang Gil-woo