"After giving free-floating dread a gargantuan, tentacled form in The Host, Bong Joon-ho returns to human-sized monsters in Mother." Fernando F Croce in Slant: "No less than the toxic leviathan in the director's previous hit, the film's middle-aged, unnamed matriarch (Kim Hye-ja) is a roiling force of nature when it comes to her mentally challenged adult son, Do-Joon (Won Bin)."
"If Memories of Murder brimmed with chaotic violence borne out of the 'glorious' 80s," writes X at Twitch, "the invisible violence against the weak displayed in Mother is all the more painful - perhaps because many people are living it as we speak. As subtle as the social commentary in the film might be, those elements emerge with impressive resonance." Further in: "I've nearly only spoken about Bong Joon-Ho so far, but this film belongs to one fantastic performer first and foremost: Kim Hye-Ja."
"Kim Hye-ja as the indefatigable guardian of her boy is as memorable as Pudovkin's and Naruse's protagonists," agrees David Bordwell.
For Amber Wilkinson, writing at GreenCine Daily, her "understated performance takes the edge off some of the more hyperbolic plot twists."
"The best murder mystery stories start small and build out, becoming more about the community where the crime took place, as well as the changing character of the detectives who look deep into the hearts of killers," writes Noel Murray. "In that sense, Bong Joon-ho's Mother is a superior murder mystery."
Also at the AV Club, Scott Tobias: "It's a supreme compliment to say that at the end of Mother, you appreciate the many sides of the eponymous character while still finding her mysterious."
Reviews from Cannes.
Update, 10/8: "In the end, the film becomes a meditation on the twin poles of guilt and forgetfulness, a duality that finds its expression in the final scene, where sullen meditation captured through crisp camerawork gives way to a blissful, golden blur," writes Andrew Schenker for the L Magazine.
Update, 10/10: "As his latest film shows, Bong is able to hit all the notes that audiences have come to expect in his movies while still developing his narrative techniques and visual aesthetic," writes Cullen Gallagher at Not Coming to a Theater Near You.
Update, 10/11: Leo Goldsmith in Reverse Shot: "In its achingly precise mise-en-scène, its deeply affecting elegiac tone, its finely calibrated performances, and, yes, its straight-up knee-slapping silliness, Mother represents the work of an astonishingly talented narrative filmmaker at the height of his abilities - the precise ratio of restraint and exaggeration is expertly calculated in every scene."
Update, 10/13: Nicolas Rapold talks with Bong Joon-ho for the L Magazine.
Update, 10/18: "Inasmuch as Life During Wartime explores the limits of forgiveness, Bong Joon-ho's Mother poses a sinister corollary in its tale of a parent's unwavering devotion to her child," writes Acquarello.
TIFF 09: Index; full coverage; lineup.
NYFF 09: Index; full coverage.