Writer/director Hirokazu Kore-eda, who made a strong impression with 2018’s Shoplifters, revisits conflicting perspectives in Broker.

Shifting focus from poverty to parenthood, Kore-eda’s movie focuses on a controversy that’s created when a single mother, So-young (Lee Ji-eun), abandons her baby in a church “baby box”.  The baby is received by church employee Dong-soo (Gang Dong-won) and his business partner Sang-hyun (Song Kang-ho of the Oscar winning Parasite) who both run a side-hustle that helps assign orphaned children to adults who are unable to conceive a child on their own.  So-young, returning to the church after feeling regret, finds out about the secret plan and wants to be involved with the transaction.

Broker follows a road movie formula as the three central leads travel to find new potential parents for So-young’s baby, which creates an unlikely dynamic between them.  While this is a routine choice for the film’s narrative, there’s no denying that it works and keeps Kore-eda’s story on track for confrontational conversations about the film’s themes. 

In a way, Broker reminded me of Alfonso Cuarón’s Y tu mamá también;  only significantly less sexually charged.  But unlike that influence, Broker doesn’t unfold naturally.  Kore-eda creates from the heart, but the structure feels very mechanical and doesn’t want to think outside of its template.  How else do you explain the obligatory inclusion of two detectives (Bae Doona, Lee Joo-young) pursuing So-young and Dong-soo?  Those authoritative supporting roles only exist to drive the plot forward and raise its stakes.  It’s a pressure cooker that works in a comfortable way, but feels too simplistic and conventional for an otherwise challenging and thought-provoking drama.


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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie

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