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CIFF: Mother

By Rob Christopher in Arts & Entertainment on Oct 13, 2009 3:20PM

2009_10_13mother.jpg This is part of Chicagoist's continuing coverage of the 45th Chicago International Film Festival.

About half an hour into Bong Joon-Ho's new film Mother, we stopped taking notes. We stopped taking notes because we didn't want to miss anything that might be happening onscreen.

Do-joon is a mentally imbalanced young man with an angelic face and a tendency to forget things. He lives with his mother Hye-ja, an herbalist and acupuncturist who's a little too protective. When a local teenaged girl is found brutally murdered Do-joon is the prime suspect, for he seems to have been the last person to have seen her alive. Or was he? The police think it's an open and shut case and even Do-joon's lawyer recommends a plea bargain. But Hye-ja won't hear of it. She fires the lawyer and begins an investigation of her own. And if you think you can predict what happens next, you're wrong.

Mother is a knotty tale, part drama, part suspense mystery, part black comedy, that knows exactly when to unfurl a new twist. Unlike lesser films of its ilk (we're looking at you, Mr. Shyamalan) each twist actually enriches our understanding of the characters rather than undermining it. Bong Joon-Ho displays a complete mastery of the camera and editing. He never shows you something unless it's something he wants you to pay close attention to. Every shot is crammed with details and clues, the importance of which is sometimes not revealed until much later. You'll be hooked until the very end.

Mother screens on October 15.