Mother, Bong Joon-ho's follow-up to his killer killer-tadpole allegory The Host, is a subtler yet no less visceral horror-comedy. Opening as tumultuous slapstick, this tale of 27-year-old village idiot Do-joon (Won Bin) and Hye-Ja, the local madwoman who is his single parent (Kim Hye-ja), quickly darkens once someone bludgeons a schoolgirl. Do-joon is accused of her murder and easily confused into signing a confession. With the simpleton packed off to prison, Hye-ja's hyper-aroused maternal instincts drive the movie. She campaigns for her child's release and attempts to pin the murder on Do-joon's only friend. Pushing Mother into a realm beyond routine policier is the giddy realization that there may be no lengths to which Hye-ja won't go to establish Do-joon's innocence—and that, although he might indeed be innocent, the mother-son dyad is founded on its own guilty secrets. The two share a bed, and Hye-ja shows a marked interested in her son's virility. While in jail, Do-joon has time to think about the past; rather than provide the evidence Hye-ja hopes for, he confronts her with a recovered memory that allows the movie to pivot into psychological (or perhaps just Psycho) drama. It would hardly be surprising if Hollywood attempted a remake—although it will be a rare studio movie with the nerve to recreate Mother's final reel, an ending that leaves its protagonist stranded in a moral netherworld, applying her acupuncture needle to the spot that "unknots the heart."
Kim visits her son in the pen.
Opens at Varsity, Fri., March 26. Rated R. 129 minutes.