A road trip movie that is also a sombre experience about what family means to different people.
When a mother drops her unwanted baby at a baby box in Korea, two men take the baby to sell it on to loving parents. But when the mother returns, the three agree to find suitable parents together. However, not everyone is telling their whole story…
Written and directed by Japan’s Kore-eda Hirokazu, Broker follows two men, Dong-soo and Ha Sang-Hyun (played respectively by Gang Don-won and Song Kang-ho) who are self-styled “cupids”, taking unwanted and abandoned babies and sell them to parents who, for genuine reasons, cannot have or cannot adopt children. Their newest charge, though, has a complication when the mother, Moon So-young (played by Ji-eun Lee) returns looking for the child. It becomes even more complex when two undercover police agents are following her…
This unorthodox team of brokers, orphans, and reluctant mothers, go on the road in a battered old van, looking for the right price and the right parents to give the child over to. All making for a sensitive, human story full of levity, hidden truths, and morally grey realities of those forgotten.
There are some familiar faces here too, Song Kang-ho recently in Parasite, and Bae Doona in Cloud Atlas. The performances, naturally, are excellent, and the direction from Hirokazu is clearly honed to perfection; with family-based themes and stories being his wheelhouse.
Trailers mention that the film is by the production studio behind Parasite, which shouldn’t be an indicator of content to anyone. However, it was good to see a decent turn-out for this film. Broker is a much more relaxed experience. A slow burn, as we slowly get to learn about these three principle characters and their backstories.
It does not hand-feed you the information either; the dialogue is natural and befitting the characters. Exposition can be as little as someone mentioning “cable cars”, then five minutes later we are shown a brief scene with other characters… but there are cable cars in the background. This is a plot link that establishes a character’s motivations and agency, and a while later will the script actually tell you straight up. How Moon So-young is already notorious for leaving her child is frequently seen dropping things, leaving stuff behind. Extremely small details, but evokes the thoughts of the character without outright saying it in long-winded dialogue.
The entire film works this way, with it very slowly drip-feeding more information about the characters and how they are interacting, what is being done more subtly. It expects you to fill in the little gaps.
It is one of the more refreshing aspects of Asian cinema, often the films are minimal, but never sluggish or dull. Broker is a beautiful looking film as well, showcasing the countryside as our characters traverse it on their journey.
While the three protagonists are excellent, a special mention should go to Seung-see Im, child actor and first credited role as the blunt rapscallion orphan Hae-jin who tags along. Some of the best and most humanizing moments are caused by him, or at least involve him.
If you think it sounds interesting, it would be a recommended movie. It is a sombre movie but with heart and levity laced throughout it.