(director/writer: Kore-eda Hirokazu; cinematographer: Hong Kyung-pyo; editor:Kore-eda Hirokazu ; music: Jung Jae-il ; cast: Lee Ji-eun (S-young), Song Kang-ho (Sang-hyeon), Gang Dong-won (Dong-Soo), Bae Doona (Soo-jin), Lee Joo-young (Detective Lee), Im Seung-soo (Hae-Jin), Ji-yong Park(Woo-sung); Runtime:  129; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Lee Eugene; Neon; 2022-S. Korea-in Korean with English subtitles)

“Bittersweet Korean road movie, that somehow manages to have a light tone.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Japanese filmmaker Kore-eda Hirokazu (“Shoplifters”/”Nobody Knows”) directs and writes this bittersweet Korean road movie, that somehow manages to have a light tone. He takes his usual drama of domestic melancholy over makeshift families to South Korea for the first time, and in one of his better films still keeps in the cornball stuff but keeps it down and keeps the story somewhat credible.

A young mother (Lee Ji-eun) abandons her baby in a “baby box”–a hatch at the wall of the Busan Family Church that allows parents to anonymously and safely get rid of their child. The baby, left on the floor, is taken by Sang-hyeon (Song Kang-ho) and Dong-soo (Gang Dong-won), the film’s so-called brokers. They take the baby and intend to sell it for adoption on the black market. They have been watched by two female detectives (Bae Doona) and (Lee Joo-young) on a stakeout run by the Female Youth Network because of other incidents at the site. The next morning the baby’s remorseful mom returns for her baby Woo-sung (Ji-yong Park) and one of the brokers takes her to a laundromat owned by the other broker, Sang-hyeon, where her baby is being kept. The laundryman is not a bad guy, but he’s being extorted by a gang who wants him to steal babies for them to sell. The brokers agree to cut the mom in on the deal, if she goes along with their plan. The trio hit the road, followed by the detectives and thugs.

It turns out mom is on the run because of the death of the child’s father, who is married to a wife who has influence and wanted to raise the baby herself. Mom murdered the father of the child because he didn’t want to keep it.

It’s an uneven film. But as wacky as it is, it makes sense, is amusing and is even sometimes poignant.

A man holds a baby on a waterfront, with another man
        carrying a baby carrier and a woman standing nearby.