Perhaps one of the most anticipated films of the Melbourne International Film Festival, 'Broker' is a touching if occasionally slight exploration of motherhood, family, and the sacrifices that come with both.
Convinced they are "saving" children from the dead-end life orphanages bring, Sang-hyeon (Song Kang-ho, 'Parasite') and Dong-soo (Gang Dong-won, 'Peninsula') have made a small side hustle out of snatching children from the local orphanage's Baby Box and selling them to couples who cannot adopt through legal means. Their latest nab, however, a baby named Moon-Sung, proves to be a dicier sell than they initially anticipated as the baby's mother, a mysterious young woman named So-Young (Lee Ji-eun, 'Shades of the Heart'), re-emerges – but to help a sale go through rather than to reclaim her child. All the while, two Female Youth Division detectives (Bae Doona, 'Next Sohee', and Lee Joo-young, 'Baseball Girl') are hot on the trio's trail, waiting patiently to arrest the group with child trafficking.
To say that 'Broker' is director Hirokazu Kore-eda's wheelhouse is an understatement. The touching story of an unconventional family coming together (and being pulled apart) through shared trauma is a touchstone of his work, seen as recently as in his instant classic, the 2018 Palme d'Or-winning 'Shoplifters'. It's clearly a foolproof formula, but it's a shame that 'Broker' treads such familiar ground with not much difference in style, even if the conventional cinematography and piano-driven score are intentionally used as an anchor for an uncharacteristically messy screenplay, featuring far more plot threads than I can even get into here.
To say that 'Broker' is director Hirokazu Kore-eda's wheelhouse is an understatement.
The cast manage to elevate the saccharine – Song Kang-ho won Best Actor at Cannes for his work – but K-pop star Lee Ji-eun is simply a magnetic force in this film. I was unaware of just how big of a star she was before seeing 'Broker', but she embodies So-Young with such unsuspecting tenacity that she feels like a real person rather than just being Lee Ji-eun, a problem many super-famous stars often face.
Despite being far from his best, 'Broker' proves that even a middling Kore-eda project is still leagues above other director's batting averages.