Fans of the director Hirokazu Kore-eda’s work will unquestionably draw many parallels between “Broker” and his previous films. Still, his latest feature’s fantastic performances and writing hold the experience together, resulting in a film that is both fun and thoughtful. 

“Broker” is the latest film from Japanese screenwriter and director Kore-eda. The film tracks the exploits of Dong-soo (Gang Dong-won) and Sang-hyeon (Song Kang-ho), a pair of brokers who take abandoned babies and illegally resell them to new families. 

Things go awry when their most recently abducted kid’s mother, So-young (Lee Ji-eun), comes back for her child. Rather than turn the two in, So-young teams up with Sang-hyeon and Dong-soo, traveling across South Korea in an attempt to sell her son to a family that will truly love him – for a cut of the profit, of course.

My favorite aspects of “Broker” were definitely the characters and the ways they were brought to life. Kore-eda’s blend of humorous, brutally honest wit paired with his signature sincerity brings every character to life, lending them an odd yet understandable perspective.

The film’s tone is fairly light, but does not shy away from tackling serious subjects when appropriate. The film moves at a brisk pace, constantly exploring new locations and facets of its characters, although “Broker” does start to feel a touch monotonous during the third act.

The film’s main cast delivers universally fantastic performances. Kang-ho is always a delight to watch. In this movie, he plays a delicate balance between barely keeping it together and total emotional collapse brilliantly. Even the performance from Hae-jin (Im Seung-soo), So-young’s child, is extraordinary and feels admirably realized despite the young actor’s age.

I wish that “Broker” had a few more wide shots thrown into the mix. Most of the film exists in medium or close-up shots. Some of this is by necessity, since a lot of the movie takes place in a confined car. However, when the characters venture out in the wider world, the film’s camera keeps close with its subjects. Granted, this is a consistent stylistic choice made throughout Hirokazu’s filmography rather than a fault in filmmaking. It is simply a choice I find myself not entirely connecting with.

An important piece of contextual information to understand before viewing “Broker” is the baby box system. The baby box program provides a place where a parent can bring their baby and anonymously abandon them with the assurance that they will then be cared for. The controversial system has been praised for providing an alternative to abortion and infanticide, but it is criticized for encouraging irresponsible parenting and psychologically scarring children. 

While the majority of “Broker” is essentially a road movie with only tangential relation to the baby boxes, it is that system which defines “Broker” thematically. The audience is asked to challenge their notions of family and the responsibility it entails. All of our protagonists’ sense of family has been fractured in some way, and society has failed to provide them the tools necessary to heal. Actions that seem heartless at first are later justified by the character’s fragmented life. The police who coldly chase our main cast serve to perpetuate this brutal cycle of broken people, knowingly or not. 

While I enjoy the film’s exploration of its themes, I would be lying if I said “Broker” did not feel familiar. This same or similar material has been covered in many of Hirokazu’s other films, like his Palme d’Or winning “Shoplifters” and the heart rending “Like Father, Like Son.” Once the film arrived at its emotional climax, I could not help but feel the conclusion it reached was forgone. If viewers have never watched a film from this director, I suspect the emotional sentiment will hit harder. 

In summary, even if some familiar ground is tread, “Broker” manages to be a compelling and emotionally complex drama that I found incredibly rewarding. I give it a 7/10. 

Even if Hirokazu dedicates the rest of his career to essentially making the same film, I will still be here for it, so long as he keeps putting out quality material. I would strongly recommend individuals to check out “Broker” at the Mary Riepma Ross Media Arts Center.