Cannes 2022: Kore-eda Follows Another Unique Family in 'Broker'
by Alex Billington
May 27, 2022
Is there anything new I can say about the wonderful Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda that hasn't already been said by more adept film critics? Not really. He's beloved and so many critics have analyzed him in great depth already. His talent isn't in question, we know he's a master filmmaker, it's only whether each new film he makes is interesting or worthwhile. Broker is Hirokazu Kore-eda's latest feature, premiering at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival in the main competition section where just 4 years ago he already won the coveted Palme d'Or (for the film Shoplifters). Broker is actually set in Korea and filmed in Korean, marking the first time that the Japanese director has made a Korean film, but it's still as wonderful as ever. Even if he's telling pretty much the same story as Shoplifters, following a pieced-together family of lonely people - most of them orphans who have found solace and comfort in their amusing renegade family they've formed.
Kore-eda's Broker introduces us to Song Kang-ho and Dong-won Gang as two friends in South Korea who watch "baby boxes" where strangers can leave an unwanted baby. It is apparently a real thing in Korea, these baby boxes are installed in benevolent places like churches as a better way to give a baby a new life if the mother can't or doesn't want to raise it. It's a controversial concept, which is obvious, but the film also goes another controversial direction altogether. These two work under-the-radar and pick up babies that are left there, taking them in and helping them meet new parents "illegally" outside of the complex adoption system. There are many reasons that parents can't adopt through the official system, and they want to work around that to help parents and children alike. When they pick up a baby from a young woman (Ji-eun Lee) one rainy night, the woman returns the next day and she soon finds herself being brought into their makeshift family. They didn't know what to do with her, so off an adventure they go traveling around Korea.
It's impossible to not be emotionally affected by Kore-eda's films, my goodness. Just when you think you're not feeling anything for these characters, or there's something strange about them, the next thing you know you'll be wiping away tears when something happens and they miss each other or they open up about their own sorrows. Broker is another beautiful Kore-eda film about family and how families can be so unique, how they don't necessarily have to be families based on DNA; they can be families based on kinship, based on understanding and appreciation. Ultimately a family that treats each other with respect and kindness is a better family than one that yells at each other, or controls and manipulates each other. On their road trip to various South Korean cities to meet prospective parents, they also discuss forgiveness and compassion. It's so sweet to watch them bond over this journey. However, it is quite similar to Shoplifters, as they're sort of criminals (I would debate this despite what the law states!) making the most of their time together anyway.
There is something else questionable about this film, though it's nerve-wracking to even bring it up. It oddly wades into anti-abortion / pro-adoption territory but… I can't really begrudge it because it's crafted with so much openness and understanding. This is Kore-eda's magic touch. It makes for an intriguing conversation rather than deserving of any condemnation for being anti-abortion. Even if I don't necessarily agree with what's being said or how the situations are handled, I can still intelligently consider the complexity of what's happening and analyze the choices being made free from reactionary judgment. It is possible! Maybe the way the film handles this topic is not that great. Maybe the way the film brings it up is rather interesting. Nonetheless, Kore-eda handles it with care and allows us to have the conversation and doesn't make the film provide an answer or solution itself. Broker isn't so much about this topic anyway, as it is a story about how families grow and develop, and how they are always the most important thing in the world no matter what.