Release Date – 24th February 2023, Cert – 12, Run-time – 2 hours 9 minutes, Director – Hirokazu Kore-eda
A young mother (Lee Ji-eun) joins the child traffickers (Song Kang-ho, Gang Dong-won) who have taken her baby from a Church baby box, not knowing the police (Bae Doona, Lee Joo-young) are after them.
Broker is a film which integrates the audience into the group of strangers at the heart of it by treating them exactly like a group of strangers. As each figure learns something new about those around them we do too in the exact same moment – this even being the case for those who have a hesitant familiarity with each other. Details and reveals come through in natural conversation to allow for a realistic sensibility to come through which further engages us in the actions of the group.
So-young (Lee Ji-eun) is a young mother who at the start of the film leaves her baby outside a Church’s baby box – however when she comes back for it she discovers that the child has been taken by two child traffickers (Song Kang-ho, Gang Dong-won), also working as laundry-shop workers. Instead of trying to get Woo-sung back she joins the pair travelling across South Korea in a rattling laundry van to try and sell her child – the mother being present might bring about more money, and certainty for the potential buyers. However, while one is aware that he owes a great deal of money no one is aware of the fact that they are being followed by two police detectives (Bae Doona, Lee Joo-young), who only need an exchange of money to make an arrest.
Throughout the road trip each new location offers an opportunity for the characters to open up that little bit more. Becoming more comfortable and aware around each other a real family nature begins to sprout amongst them. As this becomes the case slight humours become more frequent, strengthening the bond between the core figures we see on screen. The more we learn about them, especially in regards to their pasts, the more writer-director Hirokazu Kore-eda unveils a the personal emotions that truly construct the characters.
Of course, once properly placed together and embracing the not-quite-family nature of the ensemble things need to move along and properly move along the narrative. Much of the former takes place while travelling between locations, but eventually the developments need to take prominence. Luckily, such points continue to be well tracked and our connection to those on-screen is used effectively. Just as it seems the film may be drawing itself out it reminds of of just why it’s so great. Allowing the performances and conflicted emotions and aims of those we’ve spent time with so far to continue to be an integral part of the mixture. Reminding us of the internal, personal aspects at play, the ones rarely spoken about yet that we’re fully aware of. Perhaps the best display of this being a ferris wheel scene where the characters have no choice but to talk as they’re confined to an up-close and cramped space.
Broker knows and understands its characters and yet gets to know them more as their journey takes place. Allowing the viewer to connect with them as the strangers gain some sense of familiarity with each other, particularly amongst their various internal emotions. Things are finely held together by the strong performances from the whole cast and Kore-eda who, alongside cinematographer Hong Kyung-pyo, captures the events with a wonderful flare featuring a number of shots truly capturing the extent of the personal feelings being held in the large world surrounding them. We meet these strangers and somewhat get to know them over time, yet the film continues to acknowledge that we don’t entirely know these people – and they don’t entirely know each other either. That’s the real key of Broker and it makes for an engaging, emotional, yet occasionally effectively light, drama.
In Broker we meet a series of strangers and continue to spend time with them as strangers, yet we’re brought in through an ensemble of great performances which convey the personal emotions and pasts which help to construct a family-figure amongst them. All finely captured by Kore-eda, this is a brilliant multi-character drama.