OPENING IN NEW YORK AND LOS ANGELES! The United States is in the midst of its most intense battle over reproductive rights. That makes the core narrative of writer/director Hirokazu Koreeda’s Broker, to say the least, timely. The film opens with So-young (Ji-eun Lee) leaving her newborn in a designated unwanted baby drop-off box. Her baby is received on the other end by Dong-soo (Dong-won Gang) and Sang-Hyeon (Song Kang-ho). These two receivers are anything but charitable public servants.
Instead, they are involved in selling babies on the black market to parents willing to pay exorbitant amounts of money. So-young returns for her baby and is taken along on a road trip through Korea by the two baby brokers as they seek a set of parents for the baby she abandoned. As So-young and the brokers meet different prospective parents, little do they know that they are being followed by two police officers (Bae Doona and Lee Joo-young) and some gangsters to whom Sang-Hyeon owes money.
Director Hirokazu Koreeda has a knack for crafting narratives around makeshift families. He did this quite effectively in one of the best movies of 2018, Shoplifters. And not just his films come to mind when watching Broker. One cannot help but think of Little Miss Sunshine as the characters here, all flawed in their own particular ways, somehow come together to form a family inside of a moving vehicle. This, just like that indie fave, features a jalopy of a vehicle somehow making it through a cross-country trek.
“…So-young and the brokers meet different prospective parents…they are being followed by two police officers…”
Koreeda’s screenplay is a clear critique of the hyper-commodified world we find ourselves in, wherein everything — even a baby — has a price. Prospective parents haggle over the price of the baby based on its looks. As Koreeda develops the story, themes of benevolence, responsibility, and family unity come to the forefront. The dialogue, storytelling, and acting all come together in quite a compelling way. Speaking of acting, Song Kang-ho (who you may remember from Parasite) gives yet another top-notch performance as the de-facto dad of the group. Though his character is quite flawed, Song Kang-ho oozes warmth and charisma. It is quite hard to root against him.
If there is anything to criticize about Broker, it is the fact that it is too reminiscent of the story and theme of Shoplifters. Regardless, this will have you laughing and will definitely have you crying. A particularly powerful scene makes reference to Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia. As the Aimee Mann song “Wise Up” plays in the background, one cannot help but feel a knot in one’s throat.
If there’s an overriding idea that Broker leaves you with after the tears roll down your cheeks, it is the sense that family transcends familial bloodlines. Family does not have to be something you are born into. Family can be something you can patch together and create.
Broker screened at the Miami Film Fest GEMS 2022.