How does your view of the main character change throughout the course of this film?
I definitely feel like the main character changed through out the film. The mother started out by what seemed to be just a normal mother, at least what my perception is. (My mother is extremely overprotective). She always told him never to hang out with the local town boy because he was so disobedient and she did as much as she could to make sure her and her son stayed a float. She sold medicinal herbs in the Korean market place and did (unlicensed) acupuncture on the side.
When her son, Do-joon was walking home he followed a girl who later called him a “retard”. He was always prone to attack people who belittled him because of his special needs due to his mother instilling his in him. Afterwards, the police found the body of the girl overlooking the entire town and conducted an investigation. Because Do-joon’s lawyer wasn’t accountable and the police were fine with the evidence they did have, they arrested him. Mother, like any other mother (I believe still) was totally unconvinced that her son could do such a thing. I know as a mother, without solid proof, no one is going to arrest my child and tell me he murdered someone and I let that go easily, even if my son had violent outbursts. And you can say what you want, but when a mother looks at her child, it’s hard to look at him or her as anything other than the love of your life.
So, with that being said, after the case was closed she took things into her own hands to find the real murderer. I know a lot of people…think she is still crazy here. And maybe she is. But I think she is just going to the extra mile because her son is all she has. We don’t know the mother’s back story of why she is how she is. We just have to take into account…what Korea was like for women…what she went through before and after having her special needs son. I feel like the movie really left that out. She goes to a junkyard where she finds a man who claims to have seen her son attack the girl. Of course, she still doesn’t want to believe him. But at this point, I start to think…what does this guy have to lose? Why would he lie? He doesn’t get anything from it…so maybe he is telling the truth. Yet, she still does not want to hear it. Then we really get to see…maybe she is crazy, when her son has a memory where she tried to kill both of them with poison when he was five. This is where I start to feel like, “Okay, there is definitely something wrong with her.”
She kills the man and burns down the junkyard, the tin drops from her pocket. We’ll discuss that in a second though. She slowly starts to progress and change into this person that wasn’t present at the beginning of the movie. Do-joon confides in her that he left the body overlooking the city because he wanted the people to see her so someone could give her medical attention. Now she is aware her son actually did it. She has been through a lot and earned her spot on the list of crazy. She is pictured on a bus, giving herself acupuncture to forget everything that has happened. And I guess it must have worked, because she started dancing. But I feel still…empty…like something was never right to start with in this film.
What does this movie say about its the themes of motherhood and justice?
I feel like in order to be a good mother, you have to be willing to go to the ends of the earth for your children, as long as they are innocent. And even when they are not, you still should be their backbone while they are serving their punishment. In this case, Mother was just trying to be there for her son. She had previously wronged him times before ( trying to poison him ) and now she is seeking justice for herself, to free him which in turn will get him justice from the legal system, provided he is innocent. Mothers are always trying to take care of their children, when they get sick we say, “If I could take this from you, I would,” when they get in ttrouble at school for talking (maybe the first couple times) we say, “Don’t do it again, ma’am he didn’t mean it”. We always want justice because they are our flesh. But eventually, there has to be a breaking point where a mother can not and should not absorb the punishments for the child because they will never learn. If the dog continues on peeing in the house and nothing ever happens because of it…he will continue to pee in the house. But the Mother , as I said above has to have a story we don’t know and she is hurt…just trying to find her way and be happy.
And what do you think the mother’s small tin of acupuncture needles symbolizes?
I think that the mother’s small tin of acupuncture needles symbolizes the passing of the forgetfulness. The mother had lost this and was given back with the words “You should be more careful” or something to that effect. After her son had confided in her, she was hurt. Could you imagine that after you went through hell to prove your son was innocent and you looked in your baby’s face, he said..”I did it”? What kind of emotion would you feel? Wouldn’t you want to just forget that ever happened? Can you imagine the amount of emotional stress Mother has been through? I picture her being ridiculed as a single mother, maybe abused and left by her son’s father all alone. That has to be stressful. My sister is a single parent with two kids but I know raising a special needs child has to be tiring within itself some days. I feel like the tin also represented the Mother’s freedom from all of these things. She has endured so much pain her life and now, the only person she had left … this happened. She needed an escape route, and those needles were it. So she pinned herself…she forgot and she danced.
Great post! Bizarre movie. I think that the mother showed evidence of being pretty off balance early in the film, so I disagree with you just very slightly there. Happy holidays!
I thought your comment about the Mother being blissful after using the needles was interesting. It made me wonder if that could apply to other scenes, too. When she practices acupuncture without a license, maybe she used it to forget her problems and she could pretend that she was an authentic expert, giving advise to other women.