BROKER was an official selection of the 42nd Hawai‘i International Film Festival presented by Halekulani. 

Hirokazu Kore-eda’s latest film was perhaps my most anticipated out of the prestigious Cannes Film Festival. Not only was it met with rave reviews and considered a top contender for the Palme d’Or, but Kore-eda’s previous film SHOPLIFTERS was one of my favorite movies of 2018. I have to be honest in saying that I haven’t seen any other Kore-eda films besides SHOPLIFTERS, but that movie touched my emotions in a deeply personal way. Ever since this film’s premiere, I’ve been hoping that Kore-eda would capture my heart that way yet again.

BROKER tells the story of two men (Song Kang-ho and Gang Dong-won) who engage in illegal child trafficking, specifically occasionally stealing babies that are dropped off at their church by mothers who abandon them, selling the babies to couples who want to adopt children. When a mother (IU) comes back searching for her child, she winds up joining the men to find suitable parents. All the while, two detectives (Bae Doona and Lee Joo-young) are hot on their trail, adamant to catch them in this criminal act. This plot description might make BROKER sound like a serious, thought-provoking movie that tackles difficult themes. And while the film is all those things, it’s also an absolute delight from beginning to end, one that didn’t disappoint.

Perhaps the biggest reason BROKER works so well is because it revels in the happy moments. Anyone who has seen at least two of Kore-eda’s films can tell that he loves the idea of found families providing comfort and belonging. The whole film is brimming with that positive energy that simply made me smile, that I couldn’t wait to see whatever was going to happen next. One scene in particular involving the baby had the whole audience laughing because of a simple running gag. But the scenes of this makeshift family doing innocuous things were my favorites in the film because it was where these characters were happiest, and it in turn made me happy.

That isn’t to say that BROKER is only a light and jolly experience; that would be far from the truth. There are many times where I teared up for these characters because everything, including each other, is working to pull them apart, when they are clearly happiest together. The screenplay did a wonderful job at making me care for this family as individuals, all of whom are complex and complement each other beautifully. They all have their own ways of justifying their decisions, and each person also has logical counters to those justifications, leading to inherently interesting situations and conversations. Like all humans, they’re selfish on their own. But with time they become a family, and therefore selfless. Without spoiling the film, the climax combines that character development with the realism that Kore-eda keeps the audience aware of to put my heart through the wringer.

This film would not work nearly as well if the acting was not up to the task to portray these emotionally complex people. The entire ensemble is wonderful, but Song Kang-ho, IU, and Bae Doona in particular are outstanding. Song Kang-ho sets the plot in motion and is equal parts caring and charismatic; his Best Actor win at Cannes was well deserved. IU is the mother of the child and her motherly love shines through in so many ways, from her voice to her posture, and her frustration is just as potent as her compassion. And Bae Doona as the lead detective is excellent at playing a character so determined to catch this family that it wears on her both physically and emotionally. She has an unforgettable scene alone in a car that tore my heart in two; I was really impressed by her stunning performance.

All this is to say that BROKER is a great film, but I dare not omit my praise for some of the technical decisions on display that heighten the film’s power. Jung Jae-il (of Parasite fame) composed another gorgeous musical score that really helped emphasize the mood that Kore-eda was trying to communicate in each scene, whether it was a sorrowful or radiant one. Kore-eda himself also served as the film’s editor along with being the director and screenwriter, and his work here keeps the film at a steady pace, with no scene dragging the plot down. This is a road trip film after all, and Kore-eda keeps the ride smooth. So smooth in fact, that I could have watched BROKER for two more hours.

I expected to enjoy BROKER, but didn’t imagine loving it to this extent. Perhaps I should have seen it coming. I love movies about flawed people with hearts of gold, and practically every character in this film embodies that archetype. I even love this more than Shoplifters. Hirokazu Kore-eda made what could have been a standard story into a directing and writing feat, with intensely nuanced characters and visual metaphors that made my analytic brain giddy. But most of all, I felt the love these people felt for one another within the film. It’s a universal feeling that I can see everyone relating to, it certainly made me think of my friends and family. I am confident that in the years to come, BROKER will remain an exceptional film from an exceptional filmmaker, one that will capture the hearts and minds of many just like me.

Devin Hung is a creative media major at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa. He writes movie reviews on his Letterboxd account and wrote for his high school newspaper while attending Moanalua High School. When he isn’t doing homework, Devin spends his time watching movies and anime, writing reviews and short stories, and updating his Oscar predictions. He hopes to one day start a YouTube channel and write a series of novels.


The mission of the HIFF ONLINE CREATIVES & CRITICS IMMERSIVE (HOCCI) program is to encourage film criticism in Hawai‘i by using the influencer branding strategies to spark career opportunities in the State and not be hampered by oceans, state borders and distance, because geography is no longer a barrier. Ten mentees participated in this program, giving them press industry access to HIFF42. In addition, the cohort attended mentoring sessions by working critics in the online film journalism community in unique silos: Writing, Podcasting, Video Essays and Vlogging.

Mahalo to DBEDT Creative Industries and Creative Lab Hawaii for their support.

Follow Us

HIFF © 2021 All Rights Reserved