| South Korea’s official submission to the 2010 Academy Awards is a crime thriller that combines elements of “Murder, She Wrote,” Agatha Christie and Alfred Hitchcock.
Things get personal for an extremely overprotective mother (Kim Hye-ja) when her simple-minded, 27-year-old son Do-joon (Won Bin) is arrested and charged with the murder of high school girl Moon Ah-jung (Na Mun-hee). She tells the police detective that her gentle only child couldn’t even hurt a water bug.
Even though no motive is found, the police close the case after a confession is signed. The only incriminating evidence is a golf ball signed by Do-joon found near the body.
Mother plays amateur sleuth and attempts to get to the bottom of this murder. Her son has short-term memory lapses. He gets drunk at a bar on the night in question. He follows a young girl with a backpack up some steps and through an alley. He ends up sleeping in the same bed at home with his mother.
It turns out the victim has a seedy reputation. She is known as “Rice Cake Girl” because she trades sexual favors for rice.
This movie directed by Bong Joon-ho (“The Host”) takes you in unexpected directions. It is virtually impossible to figure out whodunit with the bizarre twists.
The movie has its share of poignant moments. This maternal figure barely scrapes by with a menial job. She performs acupuncture on the side without a license and sells a variety of health-promoting herbs.
Kim gives an absolutely amazing performance, displaying a full range of emotions. She is the driving force that makes this cinematic pearl work so well. Her unforgettable lead turn has garnered best actress honors at the Asia Pacific Screen Awards and Asian Film Awards.
The movie’s other strengths include the cinematography and musical score. An interesting play on words comes from phonetic differences between English and Korean in translating the international title “Madeo.” Even though spelled the same way using the Korean alphabet, it can mean either “mother” or “murder.”
The dialogue is in Korean with easy-to-read English subtitles. Opening exclusively for a limited engagement at the Tivoli in Westport.
Keith Cohen "The Movie Guy"