Night, rain, an empty alley in the South Korean port city of Pusan. A young woman with a bundle in her arms emerges from the darkness, puts her baby in front of the baby hatch of a parish and disappears. A little later, another woman opens the flap and puts the baby in the carrycot provided there. In the next scene, the baby and its basket are with two men in the apartment opposite, who quickly delete the baby hatch video.
Hirokazu Kore-eda sketches social milieus lightly
The confusion quickly subsides in “Broker – Family Wanted” by Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda, who again elegantly interweaves his narrative threads, which have been reduced to the bare minimum, and outlines a complex social situation with a light hand. Like hardly anyone else, Kore-eda knows how to portray people in need who band together to somehow get by and struggle through together. Kore-eda defends her right to little lies and tricks. One quickly thinks of the patchwork family living on a few tatami mats in “Shoplifters”, the Cannes-winning film from 2018 about a community of destiny that defies the mercilessness of the authorities and thus the law.
Except that this surrogate family in “Broker” first has to find itself, out of a community of convenience. The young mother Moon (Lee Ji-eun), who is on the run and therefore cannot take care of her baby, follows the two men from the opening sequence, two petty criminals who are indebted to the local mafia (Gang Dong-won and ” Parasite” lead actor Song Kang-ho) who illegally broker babies in order to get quick money. Moon wants to be present and have a say in the meetings with potential adoptive parents. On your trail: two detectives (Bae Doona, Lee Joo-young) tasked with catching the baby brokers in the act.
This is how a road movie unfolds, a moving image of people under pressure, of shadowy figures on the fringes of society. Here the rickety delivery truck with the Baby Woo-Sung and those who want to sell it, behind them the policewomen who sleep in the car, eat lukewarm instant noodles and discuss moral issues, exchanging terse sentences about “discarded” children and desperate parents. Or whether abortion is the greater sin.
Gradually it turns out that the van occupants themselves grew up as orphans or were abandoned. Family? Do not you know. Not even little Hae-jin, who runs towards them as the fourth in the group of lifelong rejects. Not only does Kore-eda show empathy for her despite all sober social realism, even with the patchwork elective affinity the care grows with pragmatism.
Who’s on the night shift tonight looking after Woo-Sung? How do you sew on a button? Adoptive parents who think the baby is ugly are out of the question, no matter how wealthy they are. The big ones soon agree on that. The rough tone gives way to humour, attentiveness and a sense of responsibility. However, they don’t get any rest because Kore-eda weaves a criminal case into the road movie. Soon, completely different people will be after Moon’s baby.
Broker is also a film about the baby hatch boom in Korea
Now 60 years old, Kore-eda has been shooting abroad for the second time, following the French tragic comedy “La Verité” with Catherine Deneuve and Juliette Binoche. The film, which premiered in Cannes and won the Best Actor Award for Song Kang-ho, addresses a Korean grievance. A good ten years ago, the situation for often underage, single mothers in Korea got worse since a law stipulated that women who want to give up their baby for adoption have to register.
With the good intention of enabling children later to contact their biological parents. And with the sad consequence that the number of abandoned infants grew in a country where single mothers are more discriminated against than here. This increased the number of baby hatches to help mothers and their newborns. “Broker” is also a film about the so-called baby hatch boom in South Korea, and about a rude class society.
The camera, which is initially static and increasingly moves like an accomplice, captures more and more small moments of happiness, mostly in a shabby ambience and bathed in sparse light. Be it in the car wash, in hotel dormitories or when visiting an orphanage. This time, however, Kore-eda relies heavily on its tried-and-tested recipe. In the end, the best family is the provisional one born out of necessity. Even the policewomen discover the goodness of their hearts and side with the underdogs. A little too good to be true.
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I have been working in the news industry for over 10 years now and I have worked for some of the biggest news websites in the world. My focus has always been on entertainment news, but I also cover a range of other topics. I am currently an author at Global happenings and I love writing about all things pop-culture related.