Kore-Eda Returns With Another Moving Drama About Found Families [Cannes]
Kore-eda carefully avoids painting Sang-hyun and Dong-soo as dangerous or calculated criminals. Sure, what they are doing is technically human trafficking, and they are the center of an investigation by two cops, Su-jin (Bae Doona) and Lee (Lee Joo-young), who want to catch them in the act, but they are not bad people. Instead, Kore-eda focuses on their intentions rather than their actions, as Sang-hyun says when we first meet him, he is “protecting” the child, not stealing him. It is easy to root for these two given how much they genuinely care about giving Woo-sung a good home, one that they know he won’t get by going through the legal systems.
But you know what they say about the best-laid plans, because this one gets instantly derailed when So-young suddenly shows up looking for her baby. After discovering the hefty sum the two brokers are getting for wee baby Woo-sung, she decides to join them on a road trip to find a new home for her son and also get a cut of the cash, since it’s her baby and all. After picking up one more stray orphan on the way, the five travel across Korea and slowly open up to each other as they form their own makeshift family.
While Song delivers an impossibly charming and sweet performance, and Gang has some poignant moments as he talks about having been abandoned as a child, it is Lee Ji-eun who steals the show as the emotionally reserved and devastating So-young. The best emotional moments of the film come from seeing So-young slowly opening up to her partners in crime, before immediately shutting off again due to her own troubled past (and present).