Hirokazu Kore-eda’s film offers a beautiful and heartfelt look around the ever-relevant themes of parenthood and chosen family.
Broker marks the return of prolific director Hirokazu Kore-eda, following the release of his Academy Award-nominated film, Shoplifters (2018). The film tells the story of So-young (Lee Ji-eun), a young mother who has given her baby away in a church baby box, which is supposed to serve as a way for easier and anonymous adoption. But So-young discovers that the church’s baby box is actually run by two brokers, Ha Sang-hyeon and Dong-soo (Song Kang-ho and Gang Dong-won, respectively), who sell the children on the adoption black market.
So-young tells the brokers that she will not go to the police and expose them if they allow her the opportunity to accompany them on their journey to meet her baby’s prospective adoptive parents, and they agree. However, unbeknownst to Ha Sang-hyeon and Dong-soo, the baby brokers are being followed by two detectives, who are on the trail of cracking the operation.
While Broker is a South Korean film, it comes at an interesting time in America’s history, as discussions around reproductive rights in a post-Roe v. Wade have become the center of much political discourse. While this film is certainly not inciting any sort of debate around reproductive freedom, it is offering a compassionate look as to why a woman may potentially choose not to pursue motherhood. The detectives view anyone who leaves their baby in the box with a veil of judgment, asserting that babies should not be “abandoned,” and anyone who gives their child up for adoption is selfish.
But the movie does not portray So-young as selfish. She’s not a careless young woman who’s selfishly “abandoning” her child. She’s complex and caring and has clearly put a lot of thought into her decision. The compassionate lens from which she is written (and acted) serve as a reason for pause to the “don’t have a baby if you can’t handle being a parent” argument that seems to ring loudly in the ears of women around the world.
However, the movie’s more powerful themes are shown through the conversations it presents around chosen family. So-young bonds with Dong-soo over his own trauma around being “abandoned” by his parents, while Sang-hyun begins to serve as the first notion of a parental figure to Hae-jin (a rogue orphan from the orphanage Dong-soo grew up in, who tags along on the journey, played by Im Seung). The four begin to heal each other’s generational traumas, and Dong-soo suggests that maybe the group could form their own family.
And that is the moment that elevates Broker from good to phenomenal. The all too under-utilized notion of chosen family is one that transcends culture, language, or political message. As each character struggles to sort through their own traumas related to parental relationships, abandonment, and complicated familial feelings, the moment of epiphany arises in the realization that family is not confined to the bonds of blood: a moving and beautiful message, brilliantly directed by Kore-eda.
While it certainly takes Broker a bit long to pick up with its story, with a first act that nearly crawls in pacing, the pay-off of the latter half of the film make up for it in spades. When coupled with heartfelt performances that are all portrayed with the same level of compassion from which they are written, it results in a beautiful film.
Should be Considered: Best International Feature Film
Release Date: December 26, 2022
Where to Watch: Select Theaters
Lives in NC, where she is on a first name basis with the owners of her favorite pho spot.
Favorite Actress: Angela Bassett