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Broker Review: Intimate and ultimately very human

By Sam Mutch

Broker stands tall as a poignant and beautiful addition to Hirokazu Kore-eda’s filmography.

Thank you for being born.” It’s a simple yet beautiful line, especially considering its context in Hirokazu Kore-eda’s newest film, Broker. Who would have thought that a film about traffickers trying to sell a baby would be one of the most heartwarming films of the year? 

After young mother So-young (IU) leaves her baby outside a church, church worker Dong-soo (Gang Dong-won) and laundry owner Sang-hyeon (Song Kang-ho) take the child with the intent to find a family to sell him to. When So-young finds out about the plot, she agrees to help the pair find a suitable family – all the while the unlikely group are tailed by police intending to catch them in the act, and later by a group of gangsters who are after the child. 

It’s a tough task to make an audience sympathise with a group of people trying to sell a baby, but Kore-eda tackles the subject with such a delicate hand that it just works. With great awareness of the morally skewed area that these well-intentioned, albeit selfish, protagonists occupy, the film is able to dissect its weighty ethical questions while not taking away from what is, at its core, a deeply humanist character study. 

The cast are excellent throughout, especially the three lead actors. Song Kang-ho, recently known for his acclaimed performance in 2019’s Parasite, gives a prize-winning rendition as the de facto patriarch of the film’s unlikely family. The chemistry between the entire main cast is apparent, but especially with Gang Dong-won and K-Pop star turned actor IU. Throughout the film’s first act, the pair clash heads. So-young remains noticeably detached from the group at the start, but it is the growth of this relationship that make it so pleasurable to watch, culminating in a truly beautiful scene that takes place at a theme park. Everything about an exchange between So-young and Dong-soo in this scene is perfect, from the cinematography, to the dialogue, and of course the performances. 

The film’s score, which is tender and sparse, along with its cinematography, help further the film’s intimate atmosphere and emotional impact; the audience is drawn in and taken along for the ride as a part of this makeshift family, looking past their morally dubious nature and connecting with the flawed individuals and their growing relationships. 

Broker excels most with this intimacy, which is why it perhaps has one plotline too many. The cat and mouse chase between the police and the group is really well done, with the audience getting to know the detectives as three dimensional characters, while adding stakes and humour to the film. Conversely, the pursuit by the group of gangsters is relatively unnecessary and feels like an afterthought. It adds an extra layer of complexity that isn’t really needed, and almost feels tossed to the side for a period of time after it is introduced. 

Despite this minor drawback, Broker stands tall as a poignant and beautiful addition to Kore-eda’s filmography. Its intriguing premise, along with its down-to-earth performances by its core cast, make it the sort of film that will brighten your day just seeing it. 

4/5 stars


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