South Korea is not submitting Park Chan-Wook's superb THIRST as its entry for the Foreign Language Oscar this year. Rather, it is submitting Joon-Ho Bong's MOTHER. The absurdist tone of his horror flick, THE HOST, carries over into this bizarre take on the crime thriller, in which a devoted mother sets out to prove that her mentally disabled son did not murder a young girl. TV actress Kim Hye-a stars as the mother, and utterly convinces of her crazy devotion to her son, but the overwhelming tone of this film is comedy and absurdity. Unfortunately for me, this wasn't enough to sustain the two hour run-time. If you want me to sit still for that long, you either need to take this movie into the dark underbelly of bourgeois life in the manner of David Lynch, or take the absurdity to its extreme logical conclusion as in Almodovar or Park Chan-Wook himself. By contrast, this film starts promisingly but is essentially well-made but rather tame. Certainly, there is nothing in the main body of the film to match the compelling opening scene of the mother dancing in a field, her face fixed in a grimace. At that point, I was reminded of the dancing dwarf in Twin Peaks, and thought I was in for a wild ride. No such luck.
MOTHER played Cannes, Toronto, New York and London 2009. It was released in South Korea and Australia earlier this year and opens in Japan next week. There is no UK or US release date as yet.