starring: song kang-ho, gang dong-won, ji-eun lee, and bae doona
REVIEWER: lyall carter
Boxes are left out for people to anonymously drop off their unwanted babies.
Sang-hyun (SONG Kang Ho) runs a laundry shop, but is constantly saddled with debt. Dong-soo (GANG Dong Won), who grew up in an orphanage, works in a baby box facility. One night in the pouring rain, they secretly carry off an infant who was left at the baby box.
But on the following day, the mother So-young (LEE Ji Eun) unexpectedly returns for her son Woo-sung. So-young ends up joining Sang-hyun and Dong-soo on a journey to find new parents for Woo-sung. Meanwhile, police detectives Su-jin (Doona BAE) and her younger colleague Detective Lee (LEE Joo Young) silently tail the group, hoping to catch them in the act at all costs.
Although crafted by Japanese director Hirokazu Koreeda, Broker continues the trend of unique yet superb recent Korean films like Parasite and Decision to Leave. Broker is a gentle yet at times funny exploration of a group of desperate yet loveable outsiders who must come together to survive.
With a brief outline sketch of the three protagonists and their motives at the very beginning of the film, Broker devotes most of its running time to developing the characters further and exploring what binds these very different people together.
Director Koreeda is generous in the time he allows the characters to develop a real sense of space for them to live, breathe, and have their being. They are presented in all of their beauty but also their raw contradictions and failings. Given the heavy subject, the selling of a baby, the temptation could have been for Koreeda to predetermine how this should play out for the audience. But he has too much respect for the viewer, giving them all the information in which they can make up their own mind.
Broker is also a very funny film, in a gentle, whimsical way. The small, seemingly insignificant but funny moments like Hae-jin’s fear of the ferris wheel ride that he’d longed to ride and a young couple set up by the police to entrap the would-be baby sellers get discovered for thinking that a man takes Letrozole for infertility.
Broker is a gentle yet at times funny exploration of a group of desperate yet loveable outsiders who must come together to survive.