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TIFF 2022 Review: Broker – “Stellar performances”

A police investigation into a baby box at a church being used for human trafficking intwines lives of those involved with the case.

In the pouring rain a young woman leaves a baby on the ground outside of a baby box at a local church; observing her are two police officers conducting an investigation into members of the religious organization being involved with human trafficking.  Inside the church, the video security tape is erased as a volunteer and part-time employee plan to broker a deal with clients willing to pay for illegal adoptions.  Complications ensue when the actual mother returns, and in the process, becomes part of the scheme to sell her baby.

Check out all of our TIFF coverageAs with Shoplifters, Hirokazu Kore-eda aptly explores family dynamics by bringing people together through circumstance rather than blood.  The different storylines converge at the conclusion but what drives the movie are the stellar performances of the cast.  The best scenes are the ones that unfold with Song Kang-ho portraying a hand laundry owner in debt to gangsters, Gang Dong-won as an orphan turned part-time church employee, Lee Ji-eun as the mother of the unwanted baby, and Im Seung-Soo as the stowaway orphan interacting with one another.  The harder role to play is that of the cold aloof unsympathetic Det. Soo-jin by Bae Doona; it is through her and her colleague that a narrative bridge is created between the audience and the world of the two brokers, mother, baby and orphan.

At times the music swells too much but there are really interesting choices like when on the train a character makes an emotional reveal while she goes in and out of darkness.  The real strength is in the cast and Kore-eda does nothing to distract from their performances.  Nuances add to the realism such as the backdoor of the van requires a rope to shut it properly, an ongoing discussion about the eyebrows of the baby, and the reveal of the stowaway who immediately runs off to go to the bathroom.  It is impressive how Kore-eda can infuse those doing despicable acts with a great deal of humanity and warmth to the point that you forgive them for their transgressions and enjoy the journey along the way.

The 47th Toronto International Film Festival runs September 8-18, 2022, and for more information visit tiff.net.    

Trevor Hogg is a freelance video editor and writer who currently resides in Canada; he can be found at LinkedIn.

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