VIFF Closing Film: Broker

BROKER, the closing film from the Vancouver International Film Festival, is about a baby adoption scam gone wild.

There might be a loose theme to Japanese film director, producer & screenwriter Hirokazu Koreeda’s movies.  He won the prestigious Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 2018 for the crime drama Shoplifters, about a family that relies on shoplifting to cope with a life of poverty. It could almost be a present day theme as well. A line from “Shoplifters” that ties in with his new movie “Broker” –

“Sometimes it’s better to choose your own family.”

Broker is about broken people trying to make a living making all the wrong choices – but with heart. It was purposefully written so viewers would end up not hating the offenders and maybe give more thought to what makes people do what they do – good and bad. Along with feeling contempt for the situation and the characters in this film, there is a glimmer of hope and love among the desperation.

This film was not what I expected. To be fair; I wasn’t completely sure what I expected, but I thought this movie would be more of a comedy.  While it had comedic moments in it for sure, for the most part it was more about human behaviour and what can transpire when you are given and not given choices.  It’s a judgement call when you don’t have all the missing pieces of the puzzle.  When you do and you start putting them together it makes more sense. 

I’ll leave you with the intro from the VIFF programme:

Working for the first time in South Korea, long-term festival favourite Hirokazu Kore-eda (Shoplifters) has come up with a sprawling crime story about a baby adoption scam. But in characteristic Kore-eda style, the tone is predominantly compassionate and melancholic—even the cops warm to the perpetrators. It helps of course that the baby broker, Sang-hyeon, is played by Song Kang-ho, the charismatic star of ParasiteMemories of MurderThe Host, and so many others (Song was named Best Actor at Cannes for this performance). His scheme involves intercepting infants abandoned at a church baby box, but things get messy when a young mom (Lee Ji-eun) changes her mind and discovers his racket. She decides to go along with him to meet the the baby’s prospective buyers—actually cops in a sting operation.

Kore-eda fashions plenty of twists and turns as Sang-hyeon, his accomplice (Gang Dong-won), and the girl try to evade the law and find a safe home for the child, but as always, he’s more invested in character than plot mechanics, and the truths we learn about this thrown-together family are revealed in simple, telling gestures, looks, and shadings.

Miraculous in its sensitivity, asking questions about issues of ethics, of choice, of money, and murder, and family, and how to find love in all this sorry mess.”—Ella Kemp, Indiewire

 Best Actor (Song Kang Ho), Cannes 2022