‘Broker’ movie review: Kore-eda once again finds family in unexpected places

Hirokazu Kore-eda’s ‘Broker’ takes an extremely dark reality and relies on a strong plot to make it a heartwarming watch

January 30, 2023 07:12 pm | Updated 11:05 pm IST

A still from ‘Broker’

A still from ‘Broker’

A van full of liars takes a cross-country road trip across South Korea to sell a baby to the highest bidder they can find, and Hirokazu Kore-eda, in Broker, makes us root for all them.

On a rainy night, Moon So-young (Lee Ji-eun) leaves her baby outside the church. She leaves him in a baby box, built specifically for when individuals want to relinquish their child to the care of the church. On the other side of this baby box, are Ha Sang-hyeon (Song Kang-ho) and Dong-soo (Gang Dong-won), who await the arrival of such abandoned babies to later sell them to couples who are unable to have a child.

These individuals have not merited sympathy from our society. While single mothers like So-young make these choices at the last stage of helplessness, there exists no reason for us to be moved by people who calculate a profit margin on infants. But, in Broker, Kore-eda weaves his perfected song of a found family of outcasts around them. Throw in an amusing roadtrip in a rickety van across the roads of Busan, through the city of Incheon, and you find yourself in the middle of a compelling tale.

When So-young changes her mind and finds her baby missing from the church, she is accosted by the two ‘brokers’, as she names them initially. Eventually, she also joins in on the deal in order to ensure that her baby (Woo-sung) gets a safe home. The plot in the hands of Kore-eda becomes infinitely secure, as he enjoys leaning into a sweet optimism.

Broker (Korean)
Director: Hirokazu Kore-eda
Cast: Lee Ji-eun, Song Kang-ho, Gang Dong-won, Bae Doona, Lee Joo-young, Park Ji-yong, Im Seung-soo, and others
Duration: 129 minutes
Storyline: Two men, who sell infants orphans abandoned at the church, embark on a road-trip with a young mother to find a suitable buyer for her son

As the trio (and the baby) travel to meet potential clients, they are also trailed by two detectives (Bae-doona and Lee Joo-young) who aim to catch the ‘brokers’ in the act. Therefore, at some point all individuals develop a vested interest in getting Woo-sung sold. But Kore-eda later converges their desires to a singular one: getting Woo-sung a safe home which, since it matches the audience’s mood, provides an immediate fillip to the narrative structure.

While these characters start off with motivations that are uncomfortable to digest, through the course of the film, they are given the depth for us to question our initial judgments. As a mother who is about to sell off her baby, So-young is someone who goes through a number of transformations. From the woman who left her child alone on a rainy night, to the one who thanks him for being born on a similarly damp night before he is to be sold off. Or Dong-soo, who from his own experience as a child abandoned at an orphanage, is familiar with the future of those who stay abandoned. Even the seemingly cold-hearted detective easily slips into the vocabulary of motherhood. Somewhere along the line, the baby-selling crew transforms into a team of Woo-sung protectors.

Despite bringing in characters to fill in a traditional cat-and-mouse chase between the police and the culprits, Kore-eda infuses them with enough depth to blur the edges of their moralities. This hazy landscape, where it becomes increasingly difficult to predict motivations, is where most of the film unfolds.

Supported by a strong cast, Broker is able to retain the audience’s curiosity with the storylines of Woo-sung’s unknown future family and the detectives who are catching on fast. Kore-eda’s addition of a minor subplot involving So-young’s past, which bleeds into the present timeline, threatens to distract from an otherwise smooth journey. Fortunately, Kore-eda accords it less time so it doesn’t have a major impact.

Apart from this, the film remains a near-perfect watch, and Kore-eda remains content with where his expertise lies — creating the most considerate families during an inconsiderate situation (a plotline which also works well in his latest Netflix show The Makanai). Replete with humour that one is forced to conjure during bleak times, Broker takes an extremely dark reality and relies on a strong plot to make it a heartwarming watch.

Broker is currently running in theatres

Top News Today


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.