Directed by: Hirokazu Kore-eda’
RAD TIMES review by Komal Biradar
Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Broker is a poignant tale of found families, unexpected friendships, and flawed people.One would assume that a film about stealing and selling babies could not be described as sentimental and touching, and that characters that are essentially human traffickers would be far more disconcerting than likable. Yet, Kore-eda manages to create a moving road-trip drama rich with fully-realised characters and a melancholic atmosphere.
The story follows Sang-hyeon and Dong-soo, two men who steal abandoned babies and sell them to families seeking to avoid the lengthy process of a legal adoption. On one rainy night in the city of Busan, a young woman named So-young leaves her baby outside a church drop box. The two men find this baby and instead of putting the child through the usual adoption process they decide to erase the security footage and try to find a family to illegally sell the baby to instead. However, So-young comes back for her baby not long after abandoning him, and then meets the two “Brokers.” This chance encounter sets the three of them on a long journey to find a loving couple who is keen on buying So-young’s baby. Further complicating matters are the detectives Soo-jin and Detective Lee who are tailing the two men in hopes of catching them in the act.
Kore-eda’a characters are intricately written with much attention to detail. The emotions the characters experience and relationships they cultivate with one another feel real and the film skirts the edges of sentimentality at almost all times.Broker attempts to evoke empathy for its complex characters who make increasingly morally dubious decisions throughout the film. They remain relatable and authentic despite their questionable ethics. The film constantly wants its audience to confront our preconceived notions of these characters and our judgement of them, all while remaining impartial.Broker is the kind of film unafraid to ask the tough questions. Is it really immoral to steal a baby if you sell it a loving family who will care for it more than the foster system can? Is it truly more ethical to let a child suffer within the cruel foster system? Are legality and morality linked to one another at all? Broker does not concern itself with answering these questions or trying to tell its audience how to feel. All the film does is push its audience to reflect on how we view and judge these characters throughout the film and introspect about our own morals and ethics.
These masterfully written characters are brought to life by an exceptional cast which truly ties the whole film together. Parasite’s Kang-ho embodies his character brilliantly, and oozes charisma. Lee Ji-eun as So-Young delivers a remarkable and moving performance too, encapsulating the pain and inner turmoil that her character grapples with throughout the film.
Another mainstay of Broker is its primary theme of found family. The film explores how blood ties aren’t necessarily our true families and how families can consist of any pairing of people. The film makes a case for makeshift families of diverse groups of people who seem to have nothing much in common except for love and understanding to share with one another. The fact that families can come in all shapes and sizes must be one of the most vital lessons to learn from Broker.
Broker had all the ingredients to turn out to be a shallow and contrived dramedy, but instead kore-eda turned it into something else entirely. Broker is a compelling tale of family and love, and is absolutely a must watch.
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