Hot N' Happening review

Review: 'Broker' balances the idea of grim reality with undue optimism thus becoming a treat

Kore-eda's decision to rely on goodness and optimism does seem 'too good to be true' but he breaks that notion almost entirely towards the climax.

Published: Thursday,Jan 19, 2023 03:54 AM GMT-07:00
Updated: Thursday,Jan 19, 2023 05:01 AM GMT-07:00
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Hirokazu Kore-eda is undoubtedly famous and infamous for the primary thing his films present - humanity, tenderness & hope. While this has been revered and applauded multiple times in the Palme D'Or winner, Shoplifters (2018) and others; he is also marked upon by many for the same depending on the setting. His latest presentation, Broker might just be a classic tale of the opposing views but what one can't deny - is the conviction that Kore-eda brings to the film. Having had the chance to see the film beforehand, here is what I thought of it-

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The Plot & Screenplay

The Koreans' obsession with 'baby boxes' is rather well-known to many and that sets the tone here. When So-young (Lee Ji-Eun) leaves her baby in a box outside church amid torrential rainfall, two guys, Dong-Soo (Gang Dong-won) and Sang-hyeon (Song Kang-ho) take the baby in. While it might seem noble, they actually do that in order to sell it illegally to worthy parents while scrubbing off the security footage of the church. This seems to be going well till So-young returns for her son fulfilling the promise she left on the note 'i'll come back'. Thus begins an unlikely alliance of three people, one newborn, one infant going on a roadtrip to meet potential buyers while two female cops Ji-sun (Bae Donna) and her new partner (Lee Joo-young) are following them like a hawk in order to catch them redhanded.

As novel and murky as the screenplay sounds and suggests, Broker, in its classic Kore-eda style takes a subtle, humanly and almost too optimistic approach to proceedings. Neither Dong-Soo nor Sang-hyeon are 'bad' in any way, let alone criminal masterminds. On the contrary, they are as gentle as humans can get - only doing things that are above the law. They even call themselves 'cupids' uniting children with parents who deserve them which is immediately wronged upon by So-young, who calls them 'brokers.'

Slow Burn - Works Mostly

The movie has a forgiving runtime of just about 2 hours and 10 minutes but it demands patience and attention owing to long takes and silent sequences where not much is going on. The minimalist approach on curating a screenplay that focuses on a select few principal characters works mostly, especially towards the last half an hour. The bits of road trip feel like a mixed bag where some moments work wonders while some feel bland. The entire film is a gradual and slow burn that takes quite a while to get going but it all seems almost worth it towards the aforementioned last half an hour. The one bit though that didn't at all work for me is the parallel storyline of a murder and inclusion of the underworld. The conclusion of that storyline seems convenient and undercooked.

The Performances & Climax

Song Kang-ho, who you might remember for the masterful Parasite delivers a scintillating performance as one would expect. As Sang-hyeon, he is not only the beating heart of the film but also the comic relief. The one scene with his daughter proves what a brilliant actor the man is among many others. The other stand out is Lee Ji-Eun as So-young, who is fantastic as not only does she have the most complex emotions to portray but also exhibit vulnerability, being unlikable to an extent as well and so on. The rest of the cast also put in their best contributing to the film in their best possible ways.

Kore-eda's decision to rely on goodness and optimism does seem 'too good to be true' but he breaks that notion almost entirely towards the climax. He reminds us that while indeed there is positivity and general good to look at, there isn't aways a happy ending to that. The sense of real world grim and darkness attached to the conclusion of the storyline is what brought me right back in and titled me towards loving the film in its entirety. 

The Verdict

Director Kore-eda's style of storytelling that exhibit characters of the modern society with extreme flaws and even criminal activists but with overtly sentimental values, extreme optimism and a ray of hope might get the cynics questioning multiple things but you cannot get over the emotions it leaves you with in the end.

Rating - **** (4/5)

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