June 11, 2009 / 7:00 AM / 10 years ago

South Korea's box office king returns with "Mother"

SEOUL (Reuters Life!) - The South Korean director whose movie about a mutant river monster became the country’s biggest box office hit has a new film on what might be an even more terrifying subject — an maniacally obsessive mother.

The movie from Bong Joon-ho, simply titled “Mother,” is about a parent with overbearing love for her son, who has been charged with murder. The film was warmly received last month when it debuted at the Cannes film festival and has quickly become one of the biggest films of the year in South Korea.

“Many mothers out there may want to go out for a drink after seeing this movie,” Bong told Reuters. “I wanted the story tragic. My previous movies all had a sense of comic relief, but I wanted this to have a different tone.”

The mother at the center of this crime drama, who will go to any length to prove her mentally fragile son with a spotty memory is innocent of murder, is played by veteran actress Kim Hye-ja.

The widow has a special and disturbing bond with her son who is incapable of leading a normal life: she feeds him, guides him through the day and sleeps next to him at night.

Critics highly regard Bong, 39, and his ability to produce movies with mass market appeal that mix humor and pathos to explore dark and complex themes.

Acclaimed films include “The Host,” the first local movie to top $100 million at the box office, and which told of a dysfunctional family bonding together to defeat a mutant monster that terrorized Seoul and kidnapped one of their own.

Bong said it was a nerve-rattling thrill to have a debut for “Mother” at Cannes. It was not in competition.

“As a director, or just a film fan who wants to enjoy the festival, Cannes is the worst place to be. But it must be a paradise for distributors and importers,” said Bong.

“But then at the same time, it’s the hottest place to unveil my work, I must admit. It’s hard to resist Cannes.”

Editing by Miral Fahmy

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