Directed by: Hirokazu Kore-eda
Written by: Hirokazu Kore-eda
Starring: Song Kang-ho, Gang Dong-won, Bae Doona, Lee Ji-eun, Lee Joo-young, Kang Gil-woo
Released: March 30, 2023
Grade: B+


At the Jusarang Community Church in Seoul, South Korea, one will find a hole in the side of the building referred to as a “baby box”.  It’s a place where people can anonymously leave a baby they can no longer care for.  It is manned 24 hours a day and, since its creation in 2009 by the Church’s pastor, over 2,000 babies have been “dropped off”.  Unless the mum/dad has second thoughts and returns soon after, the babies are carefully looked after and then given the opportunity to be adopted.

This real-life location serves as the opening setting for Broker, a fictional tale from Palme d’Or winning director Hirokazu Kore-eda (Shoplifters).  It’s a difficult film to summarise quickly and that’s part of its allure.  There are two guys (Kang-ho and Dong-won) who have stolen a baby from the box and are looking to sell him on the black market.  There are two police detectives (Doona and Joo-young) who are following closely and seeking to catch them in the act.  There is the baby’s mother (Ji-eun) who pops up unexpectedly while fleeing serious problems.  A few other players, including a young kid, also have a part to play.

Broker succeeds in being an interesting, not-sure-where-it’s-going thriller, and as a big-hearted family drama.  Kore-eda throws in a few unexpected twists along the way which will change opinions about the key characters.  These subplots add complexity and allow the narrative to morph into something deeper and thought-provoking.  It has something to say about successfully raising a child and how there are many different types of family structures that can achieve a positive outcome.

The performances are sublime.  Song Kang-ho (Parasite) won the Best Actor prize at last year’s Cannes Film Festival and is terrific as the morally conflicted thief.  Bae Doona (Cloud Atlas) is excellent as the hard-ass detective who slowly reveals a softer side.  Singer-turned-actress Lee Ji-eun (Shades of the Heart) skilfully illustrates the contradictory thoughts of a struggling mother.  Is giving up her newborn the right thing to do?

Parasite helped expand the popularity of South Korean cinema with Western audiences and if the country keeps churning out films as good as Broker, that interest is likely to be sustained.