Mother (Madeo) (2009)

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Released 17-May-2010

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Featurette-Making Of-(9.30)
Featurette-Making Of-First and Last Day of Shooting (1.13)
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Production (18.12)
Interviews-Crew-Director (8.54)
Interviews-Cast & Crew-Main Characters and Director (3.23)
Interviews-Cast-Other Characters (2.12)
Teaser Trailer-(1.12)
Theatrical Trailer-(1.35)
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2009
Running Time 124:00
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Joon-ho Bong

Madman Entertainment
Starring Hye-ja Kim
Bin Won
Ku Jin
Yoon Jae-Moon
Mi-sun Jun
Young-Suck Lee
Sae-Beauk Song
Mun-hee Na
Woo-hee Chun
Byoung-Soon Kim
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $29.95 Music Byeong-woo Lee

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Korean Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Korean Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English Alternate Subtitles
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     Mother is the latest feature from Korean filmmaker Boon Joon-Ho. Fans of his last film, the adrenaline fuelled monster flick The Host, might be surprised at this latest effort, a slow burn murder mystery. To find the origins of this film you have to look back to Memories of Murder, his 2003 depiction of South Korea's first serial killer investigation. Provided that you come to this film without expecting mutated lizard creatures then Mother will not disappoint for this is a finely wrought drama featuring a brilliant central performance from Kim Hye-Ja as the titular character.

     Hye-Ja, known only as mother, is a single parent to an adult child - Do-Joon (Won Bin). Do-Joon is not quite right. He is of child-like actions and childish intellect. To say that his mother dotes on him is an understatement. She, a poor grain seller in a small town, makes sure that he is fed and kept topped up with natural medicine - they even sleep side by side at night. Do-Joon has only one real friend, the troublemaker Jin-Tae (Jin Goo). When Do-Joon is side swiped by a Mercedes it is Jin-Tae who suggests revenge and leads the pair on a farcical pursuit of the driver to a golf club. It is up to the mother to collect her son from the police station after the fracas on the green.

     Such minor skirmishes are brushed aside when Do-Joon is arrested for the murder of a teenage girl. True, he had followed her home after a night of drinking but did he deliver the fatal blow? The police think so, based on a confession easily obtained from the confused Do-Joon and some circumstantial evidence. The mother gets the best lawyer in South Korea to help her son but the disinterested advocate can only muster the enthusiasm to plea bargain his client into a lengthy stint at a mental hospital. Alone and penniless it is up to Do-Joon's mother to investigate the crime and get to the bottom of the young girl’s death.

     To say much more about the plot would spoil one of the joys of this film, which is the many red herrings and plot twists that befall the mother on her journey to free her son. The film has been described as Hitchcockian and whilst the term is often bandied about too much there are some great scenes in Mother of which the master would have approved. Take one, where the mother is where she shouldn't be, trying to escape a room whilst the possible killer and his girl are asleep. Not content with having his character just tip-toe out there are water bottles all over the floor. As she carefully makes her way out a bottle tips, spilling water over the floor, which seeps purposefully towards the fingers of the man trailing on the floor.

     There is also a creepy undercurrent to the film. The opening, which is as startling as anything in recent memory, has the mother walking towards the camera though tall grass. When she reaches the perfect spot she stops and begins a slow swaying dance, like a cobra. It is a perfect introduction to the strange world of the mother.

     The performances vary in the film and the writing is at times not up to the task of resolving the sometimes massive plot twists. What is undeniable is the wonderful style of this gifted filmmaker and a towering performance from Hye-Ja as the mother. She is in almost every frame of the film and moves between overbearing mother and courageous investigator with skill. This is a performance to savour in a film that is up there with the best moody thrillers of recent years. Those who like their dramas a little twisted will love this film.

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Transfer Quality


     Mother was shot on 35mm film and projected at the cinema at a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. That ratio has been preserved for this DVD release. In the extra features the cinematographer Hong Kyeong-pyo describes the look he tried to achieve for the film with the use of anamorphic lenses. He was aiming for the slightly hazy, noirish look. He has achieved that in spades. Notwithstanding that the effect is to introduce a slight softness, this is still a very good looking film.

     The colour palette is muted but the colours are stable. The essential blacks are inky and deep. The level of grain is subtle.

     There are no technical problems with the transfer. The print is clear of artefacts and there is no hint of compression.

     A good looking transfer all round.

     There are subtitles which can be played above and below the image.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     Mother carries two Korean Dolby Digital soundtracks - a 5.1 running at 448Kb/s and a 2.0 running at 224Kb/s. Both tracks do an adequate job of conveying the dialogue in the film. It is in audio sync and seems to be pretty clear although Do-Joon does speak in a whiny fashion which might cause problems for Korean speakers.

     Where the surround track shines is in the superb evocation of the noirish world. It rains almost constantly and the surround track adds to this atmosphere. The sub-woofer is used from time to time though this is not a bass heavy track.

     The music is by Korean legend Lee Byung-woo. It is a rich and varied track with lush Bernard Hermannesque strings and dissonant sounds. An excellent all-enveloping track.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


     Mother comes with a nice batch of extras.

Making of Mother (9:30)

     Although brief this is a pretty good look at the film. After an introduction in which the director reveals he has an obsession with Kim Hye-Ja almost as scary as the mother's love for Do-Joon, we get to meet some of the creative people behind the production. In a bid to create a perfect environment for his film the director had his poor location scouts travel 80,000 kms across Korea. As they point out, this made some scenes hard to film though seamless to look at. Take the golf course segment. Do-Joon was hit in the street, they travelled to a nearby golf course and had a fight on the green - except in real life each of the environments was several hours by road apart!

First and Last Day of Shooting (1:13)

     As it says - a short snippet of the first and last days of shooting with Kim Hye-Ja.

Production Behind the Scenes (18:12)

     This is a nice featurette which functions as an on-set diary for three scenes; when the mother is aiding Do-Joon to drink his medicine whilst he is taking a leak, the golf course scene when Do-Joon is fishing for golf balls and a scene with mother wrestling with some girls.

     The scenes show the close and detailed relationship between director and cast. It also shows the incredible devotion to duty of the almost 70 year old Kim as she is pushed and buffeted about.

Interview with Director (8:54)

     Some of the interview material with Boon is repeated but there are a few more interesting comments which make it a worthwhile watch.

Main Characters and Director (3:23)

     More interview footage but the presence of the other cast members adds to the interest.

Other Characters (2:12)

    Another short segment with the minor characters.

Teaser Trailer (1:12)

     A teaser focussing on the mother/son relationship.

Theatrical Trailer (1:35)

     This trailer is more about the crime and the efforts of the mother to find the killer.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This DVD is identical to the Region 1 release. Buy the Region 4 just to support local product.


    Mother is a fascinating character study of a woman prepared to go to the edge for her son- even if he sometimes makes us think he doesn't deserve it. It has a brilliant lead performance and some great directorial touches.

     The DVD is high quality in both sound and vision terms and includes some great little features.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Saturday, August 21, 2010
Review Equipment
DVDCambridge 650BD (All Regions), using HDMI output
DisplaySony VPL-VW80 Projector on 110" Screen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationPioneer SC-LX 81 7.1
SpeakersAaron ATS-5 7.1

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