Film: Broker
Cast: Song Kang-ho, Dong-won Gang, Bae Doona, Ji-eun Lee, Lee Joo-young 
Director: Hirokazu Koreeda
Rating: 4.5/ 5
Runtime: 129 mins

This Korean-language film with English subtitles is a drama that explores the very concept of family, human values, and bonding while bringing into focus the ‘ill’ of baby snatching and selling. 
 
The narrative begins with So-young (Lee Ji-eun, the South Korean singer who goes by the name IU) leaving a baby outside a drop box meant for abandoned babies. You also see two detectives (Bae Doo-na and Lee Joo-young) staking out the spot, monitoring a team of baby snatchers (Song Kang-ho and Gang Dong-won) who take infants intended for adoption and sell them directly to parents stymied by the official process. 
 
So when So-young comes back to retrieve her infant, she is persuaded to aid the cops by joining up with the brokers who come to snatch babies – in order to gain incriminating evidence of their punishable acts.

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As the narrative moves forward with the brokers meeting up with childless couples who are potential buyers, more truths are revealed regarding each character – including sympathies and judgment regarding abandonment, snatching, and selling of babies. Every character here has an outlook that differs from the others. We get to know crucial details of So-young`s past and are also privy to her further interactions with the detectives. Some bits of the plotting feels a bit forced and unreal – especially that of the cops and their actions and the rather contrived end-play that is envisioned as a heartwarming set-up. 

By means of this dramedy about child trafficking, Kore-eda wants us to question our judgment of his characters. Are they really the true villains or is the Korean foster system that is just not yielding enough for an abandoned child to grow up in a loving, caring and secure environment, to blame? 

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As he showed us in his earlier film ‘Shoplifters,’ this is also an enticing drama about people pushed together by circumstances, who help each other survive through the many vagaries of an increasingly harsh world. Hirokazu Kore-eda crafts a nuanced study of characters that are from outside the mould, while heralding the surprising ways in which they navigate their circumstances. While the natural performances lend gravity and the classically inclined background score and editing lend feel and pace to the narrative, it’s basically the uninteresting tone and the rather predictable turn of events that keep this film from being counted among his best works. 

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