‘Broker’ Review

Ooh—baby, baby

Korean writer/director Hirokazu Koreeda comes out swinging with Broker, a sort of examination of economics, given vs. chosen family and the choices we make while backed into a corner. And though Koreeda’s tale lacks the sharp sting of films like Parasite, it does wend its way through the beauty of South Korea, landing upon a moral that’s something like: You can’t always get what you want, but you might find you get what you need; if you’re open to it.

We mainly follow Sang-hyeon (now-legendary Parasite star Song Kang-Ho) and Dong-soo (Dong-won Gang), a pair of lower-class worker types who, through Dong-soo’s job at a church orphanage, sometimes sell the babies surrendered at the doorstep. When one such baby’s mother returns to claim her child, however, their plan seems doomed—right up until it turns out she’s on board with selling the kid so long as she gets a cut. That mother (a magnetic Ji-eun Lee) seemingly cares very little for the child, but once the trio picks up a stowaway orphan (Seung-soo Im), lessons on relationships abound, leading each of the ragtag family members to examine their choices, their agency and their place in society. With a pair of cops hot on their tail and no shortage of would-be parents clamoring for the infant, our heroes travel the breadth of their country deprogramming from their traumas both shared and not. Bonds form and tensions ease. You’d almost root for them if it weren’t for the whole selling babies thing.

Kang-ho has certainly proven a powerful performer in recent years, and one with an endless reservoir of charm. Here he gets the opportunity to stretch out across a stirring variety of motivations and emotional storytelling moments. We go so quickly from distrust to devout respect that it hardly seems possible. He particularly shines in scenes with the young Im. Gang’s performance is life-affirming, too, and sometimes a harsh reminder that ambivalence doesn’t look good on anyone. Lee might be the true standout, though, particularly in her ability to convey so much while saying so little. The baby is just plain cute.

Cut to no shortage of environmental storytelling, gorgeous coastal backgrounds and cities swelling with too many people; find a different kind of love story. The most shocking surprises, though, hit slowly and unfold across the film, be it the cop who secretly loves very deeply or the young son of a neighborhood merchant who went down the dark path. Broker is like a masterclass in character development, and though slow, feels more than worth it once its bittersweet conclusion rolls around.


+Killer writing and characters; a simple story told well

-Packed with needless scenes that do very little for plot


Directed by Koreeda

With Kang-Ho, Gang, Lee and Im

Center for Contemporary Arts, R, 129 min.

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