After «Shoplifters» (Palme d’Or in Cannes in 2018), Hirokazu Koreeda strikes back with «Broker», an adoption drama set in South Korea running in the International Competition at Cannes this year.
A couple of months after its Cannes Premiere the film reaches the shores of my (rather) provincial town and I had the pleasure to discover it together with a dozen of other spectators, who like me didn’t find something better to do on a rainy Friday afternoon.
«Broker» is the story of So-young (Ji-eun Lee), a young mother, who wants to give her baby son up for adoption at a church in Busan. Instead of putting him in the “Babybox” she leaves him in front of it and two nearby police officers, Soo-jin (Bae Doona) and Lee (Lee Joo-young) from the Youth Brigade, witness the scene. Instead of landing in the usual church adoption programme the baby is taken by an employee Dong-soo (Dong-won Gang) and his accomplice Sang-hyeon (Song Kang-ho), who make money by selling babies to couples around South Korea. Later So-young turns back and is lead to her baby by one of the men. The ensuing road movie is heartwarming and shows the difficulty of a social underdog – the mother, who is also a prostitue and on top of all murderess – torn between giving her child to adoption and facing her criminal deed and her motherly love for him. The first couple they meet wants to bargain the baby for 4 Mio. Won and complains about the thin eyebrows he has. That’s too much for the mother, who abruptly turns the offer down and walks away, followed by the two men.
On the road back to Busan they stop at an orphanage, where Dong soo grew up and a cute soccer-playing orphan boy joins them on their journey. This family of fortune is now travelling around searching for adoptive parents and doesn’t know it’s being tailed by the two police officers from the beginning. So-young knows and agrees to collaborate with the police. It is arranged that the two men will be arrested during an illegal transaction of the baby.
That’s already too much story told and I wouldn’t want to spoil the film by retelling it completely. Much of its charm relies in the cinematography. I can’t remember the music unfortunately but I think it was mostly melancholic, classical music. There are a couple of funny moments and unexpected plot twists. If you’re used to violent Korean films this one will be an exception and this is probably because the director is Japanese and thus from another narrative tradition. To me this Korean “Little Miss Sunshine” is very refreshing and a perfect rainy afternoon delight.