Once at the TIFF Bell Light Box, I was so overwhelmed with emotions that I ended up sobbing loudly as I sat discussing Anatoly Letvak’s “Goodbye Again” starring Ingrid Bergman. I thought there will never again be such a film that could have the same impact on me. And It did not happen until I saw the most beautiful, heartbreaking, and the deeply moving “Bring Me Home”.
The film follows Jung-yeon, a woman who’s highly regarded at work and had all the opportunities to become a happy wife and mother. Her serene life was interrupted six years ago when her son, Yoon-su, went missing. The devastated woman and her husband do their best to find him. The husband even quickly drove towards the destination where he was told his son might be but only to find himself pranked after being gravely injured in a car accident that quickly claims his life. This another tragedy does not stop the woman and soon she gets another lead that takes her to a small village where she will have to face an unimaginable danger.
“How are you doing today?” a fellow nurse asks Jung-yeon, who quickly replies, “Much better than those who did not lose their child.” She explains later that she always wanted to be alone at least for a week, to have a break from motherhood. But now, with her son missing, her break, she notices sadly, is never-ending. The pain in her eyes is so visible that it seems almost as if it was stamped on her forever. In the meantime, when we are taken to the village, we find that a little boy is being treated like a slave and is getting beaten up every single day. When one of the officers, after seeing Yoon-su’s flyer, notices a big resemblance between the two boys, calls his mother anonymously.
The woman leaves everything behind to look for her son. However, the already strange and suspicious villagers do everything possible to hide the boy, Min-su, from Jung-yeon and demand from her to leave the village. But the woman makes the right decision and stays against the will of the man, who happens to be a cop. Not liking that she asks unwanted questions, they plot against her, not realizing that a grieving mother, or a mother who wants to find her child, will stop at nothing to bring him home even if that ‘stopping at nothing’ means fighting against everyone who hide her son from her.
By watching “Bring Home”, it is impossible to tell that it’s the first featured film of Kim Seung-woo. The whole film including screenplay, performances, and direction is a pure masterpiece. But when you know that it is South Korean cinema, you don’t expect anything less. From start to end, it captivates us with its bold approach, gripping atmosphere, and the realistic portrayal of characters. Some scenes or dialog usage are so powerful that it will get under your skin.
This exceptional thriller gives you everything you would want from this genre. And the scene where a woman hugs the child while whispering to his ears, “be a good boy to your mother” was already emotional, but the reply of the boy is what will haunt you even long after the film ends, “she is not my mother.” Yes, there are plenty of films about children that are kidnapped from their parents but many are too soft to get to where “Bring Me Home” takes us, which is what makes it so compelling, real and important to be seen not tomorrow or next week, but today, as soon as you get the chance.