Hirokazu Kore-eda (Shoplifters) directs this beautifully crafted and achingly touching crowd-pleaser about an unconventional family formed under the strangest of circumstances.
It’s a rainy night, water pours endlessly down the sky, and a woman, So-young (Lee Ji-eun), climbs the stairs leading to a small church surmounted by an imposing red neon cross. It’s the Busan Family Church, home to one of the many “baby boxes” disseminated across the nation. She is going to leave her little Woo-sung there, abandoning him in complete anonymity, with the faint promise of coming back for him someday.
But she is not alone. Shrouded in rainy darkness, detective Ji-Sun (Bae Doona) and her colleague (Lee Joo-young) are monitoring the baby box hoping to find some leads to crack down on illegal child trafficking.
At the receiving end of the box, two men, Sang-hyun (Song Kang-ho) and Dong-soo (Gang Dong-won), an employee in the facility, follow what appears to be their normal routine. They check that no one is around, delete the surveillance video and steal Woo-sung. They are brokers, ready to put the baby up for sale to their network of wealthy wannabe parents. But something totally unexpected sends their plans off on a different path. And, on the following day, the mother does return to take back her child.
Making an effortless transition from Japan to Korea, Kore-eda revisits themes dear to him — forsaken childhood, adoption, and broken families are at the narrative core of undisputed masterpieces such as Nobody Knows (TIFF ‘04), Like Father Like Son (TIFF ’13), and Shoplifters (TIFF ’18). Without forcefulness or rhetoric, Kore-eda looks directly at life and creates a small, unconventional family universe. Broker is a film filled with moments of wonder and powerful emotion.