Hirokazu Kore-eda has returned with his first feature after three years with Broker, his first Korean feature. Kore-eda explores the theme of found family and adoption with colourful characters.
Sang-hyun (Song Kang-ho) is a laundry shop owner swimming in debt. He is in cahoots with Dong-soo (Gang Dong-won), a worker at the baby box facility and an orphan himself who grew out of the system. Together, they set off as brokers—people who sell children to parents unable to have their biological children. Two detectives, Su-jin (Bae Doona) and her younger colleague (Lee Joo-young), stake out the baby box, hoping to catch the two men in the act.
One night, So-young, a desperate mother played by Lee Ji-eun, leaves her baby in the box with a note saying she’ll be back for little Woo-sung. This brings them all together as they try to give the best life to baby Woo-sung.
“Someone threw him away, so someone like us needs to sell him.”
Each character carries their own scar as the film gradually reveals their intentions. Sang-hyun initially only cared about the money but wanted what is best for the baby in the end. His partner Dong-soo knows how much it hurts to be abandoned, so he detested So-young at first but eventually warmed up to her. There is also little Hae-jin, played by the adorable Im Seung-soo, who is adamant about being adopted by Sang-hyun and joins their journey.
Kore-eda has shown his interest in families in his films, especially the found family. Shoplifters, which won the Palme d’Or four years ago, explores this trope with such warmth. With Broker, he takes it to the next level.
Broker is a film about life and what it means to be born. Kore-eda, in his director’s statement, talks about what he thinks orphaned children feel about being born into this world. It is the central question that plagues the film as Sang-hyun, Dong-soo, and even So-young, who gave up her baby but tried to come back for him, try to sell him off to parents that would give him a better life.
This film is a heartwarming journey that takes us into the lives of ordinary people acting on the strange circumstance that brought them together. It never failed to make the audience laugh with joy and sigh with sadness. Working on a film with mainly a Korean cast and crew never became an obstacle for Kore-eda as he delivered one of the most touching films in his career.