Broker ★★★

Japanese dramatist Hirokazu Koreeda sets his sight onto South Korean borders for his latest feature Broker (his Korean feature film debut) that tells the story of two conmen who steals babies from baby boxes and sells them for adoption. Alongside with them is a young mother who have abandoned her baby and decides to work with them for potential parents. Meanwhile two detectives are on their trail tracking their journey. The film has major shades of Koreeda’s Palme d’Or-winning work Shoplifters that put a spotlight on makeshift families as their way to cope on their trauma and past histories. And likewise, both films share the humanistic and tender quality of Koreeda’s touch, uplifting the sorrows and joys of people living in the margins.

However, Koreeda is less successful in regards to the writing department of Broker. It juggles several plot points and attempts to humanize every single character in the story while neglecting logic in most of its important scenarios. I understand the suspension of disbelief, but in this type of story and particular realistic tone, some things don’t make sense and not convincing for us to believe that such relationships are built. Thus, it feels forced for dramatic purposes which doesn’t feel good.

The actors always make it happen whenever it comes with Koreeda. An ensemble filled with great South Korean actors such as the likes of Song Kang-ho (who won the Best Actor prize in Cannes for this film), Bae Doona, Lee Ji-eun and Gang Dong-won—all gave wondrous, heartfelt performances that suited the familiar tone of Koreeda’s film. Song Kang-ho in particular is always great regardless of the genre, and he has always excelled in humanizing the everyman with such charm and veracity.

Overall, Broker is a middling work with familiar elements but executed in less successful way. This is an old-fashioned Koreeda which makes me wish if the director could find other stories in the same wavelength but less hassle in terms of thematic content and characterization. Still heartwarming film regardless, no doubt.

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