Broker (2022)

It’s more of the same from Kore-eda, but transplanted into a Korean setting, in this heartening mid-tier drama about characters trying to remain human despite not always being on the good side of the law. 

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Review #2,437

Dir. Hirokazu Kore-eda
2022 | South Korea | Drama | 129 mins | 1.85:1 | Korean
PG13 (passed clean) for some coarse language

Cast: Song Kang-ho, Gang Dong-won, Bae Doona, Lee Ji-eun, Lee Joo-young
Plot: A man and his friend occasionally steal babies from the church’s baby box and sell them on the adoption black market. However, when a young mother comes back after having abandoned her baby, she discovers them and decides to go with them on a road trip to interview the baby’s potential parents.
Awards: Won Best Actor & Prize of the Ecumenical Jury (Cannes)
International Sales: CJ Entertainment

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate – Chosen Family; Human Connection: Adoption Black Market
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse

Viewed: In Theatres – GV Suntec
Spoilers: No

Those who adored P.T. Anderson’s Magnolia (1999) would recognise an Aimee Mann song in a scene where a character makes a reference to the music emanating from a store as she sits in her car outside. 

It’s an exquisite scene of momentary calm and serenity that we don’t quite get in the rest of Hirokazu Kore-eda’s latest film. 

For much of Broker, the Japanese director decided on cloying non-diegetic music that either overpowers the narrative or adopts a notch too light-hearted a tone that rarely achieves the gravitas of his more powerful films such as Still Walking (2008) or Like Father, Like Son (2013).  There are emotional moments, but Broker will better appeal to fans who prefer Kore-eda-lite. 

“Thank you for being born.”

A young woman (Lee Ji-eun, a K-pop star better known as IU) abandons her child in a ‘baby box’ at a local church, where people can anonymously drop off unwanted babies.

Unbeknownst to her, two older guys (one of them is Cannes Best Actor winner Song Kang-ho), secretly take her baby away to sell off in the adoption black market.  Unbeknownst to the duo, however, two detectives are waiting for the opportunity to catch them red-handed. 

The plotting is patchy at times and it feels that Kore-eda has bitten more than he could chew, with one too many a side character or plot development. 

As a result, Broker,while a genteel and heartening transplantation of Kore-eda’s thematic preoccupations into a Korean setting, is no more than a mid-tier effort that is more of the same from the Japanese auteur.  It’s comforting but there’s nothing significant to rave about here. 

Grade: B



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