Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Movie Review: ‘Broker’ is a Beautiful and Humane Look at Big Questions

Director: Hirokazu Kore-eda

Writer: Hirokazu Kore-eda

Stars: Song Kang-ho, Dong-won Gang, Doona Bae

Synopsis: Boxes are left out for people to anonymously drop off their unwanted babies.

Much of Hirokazu Kore-eda’s recent filmography delves into law and the systems designed to uphold the law. Yet, instead of taking one road and following it to its conclusion, his stories evolve and push against us. His morality plays don’t go into blame or overt antagonism of either side. He presents the system as it is and asks us to think about all of the facets at work. Then he challenges us to think about how we can amend, change, and be better to all people.

At the heart of all of Kore-eda’s films are people. His latest, Broker has some of his most deeply layered characters. As the film progresses, we are given more information about each character, adding to their depth. These aren’t meant to be twists or reveals in the traditional sense, but a conversational experience. We learn things as other characters learn them not in a shocking way, but how you would learn things if you were getting to know someone. As trust forms, the layers are peeled away and the human is presented whole on the screen.

It’s in the small details that Broker really shines. There is this delightful runner that is so effortlessly charming. Sang-hyeon (Song Kang-ho) is a broker, yes, but his main business is as a launderer. Not a money launderer, a clothing launderer, and he takes it so very seriously. He comments on the new technologies, the shoddy work of other launderers, or hones his craft throughout. It’s runners like this one that add an air of authenticity and joy amidst the precarious nature of the business they’re in.

Broker has a sense of urgency as we do see the dogged police officers following the brokers, but it never feels like it’s rushing to a conclusion. Kore-eda takes his time with us. He pushes forward at his own pace, but the story never feels as if it lags. Everything is in the place it needs to be even if we aren’t sure how it will relate to where our characters are at the moment. This speaks to Kore-eda’s skill as his own editor. He doesn’t spoon feed us, he lets the answers come naturally and build on one another. The conclusion he reaches isn’t obvious, but inevitable when all the facts coalesce at the end.

The perfect balance of levity and darkness comes in the form of Song Kang-ho. Song has an uncanny comedic knack. He can be oafish, overly serious, and just plain goofy. Yet, when it comes to the scenes in which he needs to show a depth of emotion, his stoic face conveys his heartache, resolve, and drive. Song Kang-ho is an actor who disappears into a role and becomes a character so naturally.

Broker has a beauty in its naturalism. While it delves deeply into abortion, adoption, human trafficking, and murder; there isn’t the sheen or remove like in a pulse pounding thriller or a high minded courtroom drama. Broker delves deeply and humanely into these topics and doesn’t force us through the process at a grueling pace. It’s a film that puts character and humanity before the system with empathy and respect for the necessity of both. Broker is a beautiful film that gives no answers to the big questions, only offers, and expects, an empathetic response.


Grade: A

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