A simple storyline with overall simplicity, both in style and content, is sometimes enough to present an inspiring tale of love and forgiveness. Hirokazu Kore-eda’s latest work, “Broker,” is a brilliant reminder of this and a great exercise in fateful melodrama in recent cinema. The film’s plot follows a mother who meets with two men who indulge in the illegal trade of selling abandoned babies when she herself abandons her child and finds it with them. It is the excellent direction that brings such a plot to life and delivers a moving experience that will linger on long after ‘Broker’ has ended on the screens.
‘Broker’ Plot Summary: What Is The Film About?
Two men, Ha Sang-hyeon and Dong-soo, run a hand laundry in a local neighborhood, but this business of theirs is only a front for something far more illegal. Dong-soo is also a volunteer at the local church, which runs an adoption center for babies left by parents who cannot afford to raise them. In this church, in particular, and all over South Korea in general, there exists a system of “baby boxes,” which are literally a box or chamber placed on the church premises for people to drop off their infants anonymously and put them up for adoption. While this is done to help children get a better future when their parents feel inadequate to take care of them, Sang-hyeon and Dong-soo make a different use of this baby box. Stealing a few babies that are left with no contact numbers on them, the two men sell them off on the black market to people who cannot legally adopt babies. On one particular rainy night, Moon So-young walks up to the church door and leaves her baby on the floor before walking out of the place swiftly. What she is unaware of is the fact that two police detectives have kept an eye on the church for some time now, and one of them, Soo-jin, quickly goes and places the baby safely inside the baby box. Within a short while, the two men remove the baby from there, and Dong-soo makes sure to remove traces of this whole event by deleting the security camera footage.
While Sang-hyeon and Dong-soo look for potential adopters for the baby in the illegal market, trouble strikes when Moon So-young is back at the church looking for her baby. She claims that she had intended to leave the baby only for some time at the church, even though she had left no phone number or contact details of herself on the note. Unwilling to let the mother go away in grief, Dong-soo meets with her outside the church and takes her to their laundry, which is also the base of their secret operation. Realizing that taking her along would make their sale look more convincing to the buyers, Sang-hyeon and Dong-soo decide to make So-young a part of their plan, and she agrees. Meanwhile, Soo-jin and her partner, detective Lee keep following the van of the men, hoping to catch them in the act of selling the baby and arresting them.
How Do Sang-hyeon, Dong-Soo, So-young and Hae-jin Eventually Come Together As A Family?
“Broker” is essentially the story of four unlikely individuals who gradually come close together in a bond that is no different than that of a family. In his usual style, Kore-eda presents his characters with depth to make this bond a heart-touching watch. First is the mother, So-young, who is forced by her situation to give up her baby at the church. As is gradually revealed, So-young is a sex worker by profession, and a specific client of hers is the biological father of Woo-sung. This man had, however, repeatedly told So-Young to get the baby aborted as its birth would bring shame upon him. Now that his illegitimate son was already in the world, the man still asked So-young to get rid of him, and the woman vengefully murdered the man in response. So-young already had enough regrets about her life and choices, but she could never fathom the thought of killing a child inside her womb. Through the character of this young woman, the film poses a direct confrontation between the idea of abandoning one’s child in a baby box and getting it aborted. So-young is vehemently against killing an innocent life even before its birth, and instead supports the idea of putting her baby up for adoption as she cannot look after it. There is a sense of hesitation with regard to So-young and her infant son Woo-sung at all times. Even though she had left the baby at the church, she could not give him up at the baby box, which would have perhaps made her abandonment more permanent. She returns a few days after leaving Woo-sung to look for him, regretting what she had done, and is instead made a part of the brokers’ plans. Even with the two men, So-young intends to sell off her baby and even keeps herself away from him as much as possible. This can be understood as her desperate attempt to not form any bond with the baby, on either side. When the police detectives confront her about her actions, So-young confesses everything and keeps the detectives close in order to keep her son safe. On the other side, she also tells Sang-hyeon and Dong-soo about this new development and keeps them ready and on their toes to sell Woo-sung whenever they find the right buyer. By the end, it is clear that the hesitation that So-young has felt in giving away her baby is her very motherly instinct, for she does not want to abandon her child like that. However, she is also bound by her circumstances and situation in life, which makes it almost certain that Woo-sung will not have a healthy life with her.
The two brokers also play an equally important role in the film’s drama, for they have their own individual stories in life. Sang-hyeon is at present constantly hounded by the local money lenders to whom he owes money. The man is more of a hustler who somehow finds an escape from situations in life and Sang-hyeon’s character remains so till the end. But there is also a sad loneliness that Sang-hyeon feels now that his wife and daughter are no longer in his life. The reason for this seems to be that he has not been able to succeed in life professionally. Therefore, his only way out is to engage in this illegal activity and hope to have his family back someday. Sang-hyeon meets with his young daughter in Seoul, but the daughter just lets him know that her mother has asked him not to contact them anymore. This emptiness is somewhat filled by the charming young boy Hae-jin, who intelligently sneaks out of his orphanage home to hide inside the brokers’ van until they are far away from the place. With an innocent dream of becoming a successful footballer like Son Heung-Min, Hae-jin already finds it difficult to deal with the loneliness at the adoption home, even at such a young age. He asks the men to adopt him and take him away from the place, and when they casually wave off his wish, Hae-jin hides in their van and gets them to essentially adopt him, in a sense. On their journey following this, Sang-hyeon grows a close bond with the boy, spending time with him while also ensuring the well-being of baby Woo-sung. While there is still a monetary incentive for looking after Woo-sung, Sang-hyeon takes care of Hae-jin and So-young. An easy friendship and camaraderie grow among all the individuals, as none of them have impure intentions, and yet all of them are stuck in the gray area between right and wrong due to their circumstances.
Lastly, Dong-soo is perhaps the most sensitive and passionate character of them all. When he himself was an infant, Dong-soo’s mother had left him at the gates of an orphanage with a note saying that she would return for him. While Dong-soo grew up at the orphanage, he hoped never to be adopted by anyone else, for he kept believing his mother would return. That, of course, never happened, and the man grew up in the foster home before moving to the city as an adult. It can be easily guessed that Dong-soo has grown up hating his mother, since a certain age, for having abandoned him. So, when he meets with So-young, she is almost a similar individual who is ready to give up her child. But Dong-soo is not immediately judgmental about her, and instead, Kore-eda builds his character with a very gentle touch. Gradually, as the band of four moves across the country, looking for potential buyers, Dong-soo understands So-young’s struggle and intentions and even starts to support them. There is no other motivation for the man to step in and question potential buyers some more to ensure that they would be the right fit to adopt Woo-sung. After some time, he starts to grow a bond with So-young, which is definitely romantic but of a more mature and calmer kind. Dong-soo offers to be Woo-sung’s father and asks So-young not to give her baby up for adoption. Since the woman’s only concern was that she could not raise a kid by herself, Dong-soo offered to be with them always and stay on as a family. He obviously understands the weight of such a promise, as he would never want to make Dong-soo experience the childhood he had in the past. As the man himself says, he has finally been able to forgive his own mother through his forgiveness and acceptance of So-young. The best moments of “Broker” are definitely when these four characters, along with baby Woo-sung, drive around the country in their van. This is definitely a family of out-of-luck characters who have all been floating around individually so far before being strung together in a familial bond now.
‘Broker’ Ending Explained: What Happens To Sang-hyeon, Dong-Soo, So-young and Hae-jin In The End?
Dong-soo’s proposal to So-young comes after the final candidates to adopt Woo-sung have been met. Although this couple, the Yoons, are an ideal fit both due to the money they are willing to pay and the way they treat the baby, the only problem is that they do not want the mother to meet the boy ever again. Although So-young is definitely shaken by the finality of this request, she does gradually realize that this would be the best possible scenario. She does not want Woo-sung to know that he is an adopted child, and the Yoons intend to rear him as their own. At the very end, So-young arranges for her baby to be sold off to the couple and then meets with Soo-jin, who gives her a new alternative. Knowing that the police would surely intervene in the deal and arrest them all, Dong-soo decides to take the fall and lets his friend and associate Sang-hyeon escape. Earlier in the plot, the widow of the man So-young had killed sends out goons to fetch baby Woo-sung, most probably in order to kill him and exact her revenge, even though she keeps mentioning that she wants to raise it. During his escape, Sang-hyeon kills the goon and moneylender chasing him but does not touch the money that the woman had paid the goon. While Dong-soo is about to hand over the baby to the Yoons, the police detectives walk in and arrest the adults. Woo-sung is instead taken away by Soo-jin, the police detective, and it is she who has looked after the boy ever since. During her last conversation with So-young, Soo-jin had convinced her to turn herself in to the authorities, and instead of letting her baby be sold, Soo-jin would keep him with herself till the time the mother was out of prison. There had always been a feeling of unwanted childlessness in Soo-jin and her husband’s lives. It could be that the couple wanted to have a kid but physically could not, judging by Soo-jin’s opinion of So-young at first. Perhaps So-young had read this yearning to be a mother in her and had finally accepted her as the provider of a better life for her biological son.
There are definitely questions about how ethical baby boxes and the whole practice of child abandonment should be considered in “Broker,” even if they are not directly dealt with. The work instead leaves us with thoughts regarding it—would it indeed be better if Woo-sung would have remained at the church and been sent to some orphanage home? Perhaps not. The end also mentions Woo-sung’s having a happy life with his new parents, Soo-jin and her husband. Around three years later, So-young is released from prison, where she had been sent on charges of accidental manslaughter. Sang-hyeon is still nowhere to be found, and Dong-soo is also out of prison. Soo-jin and now three-year-old Woo-sung often meet with Hae-jin and the Yoons, who all spend loving time together. It can be guessed that Hae-jin lives with Dong-soo still, and at the very end, it is hinted that Dong-soo and So-young are now together. Every month on a specific date and time, as fixed three years earlier, Soo-jin takes Woo-sung to a park where So-young was supposed to meet them so that the mother could take her son back. But in an ultimate sacrifice for the well-being of her son’s life, So-young never meets them there and instead lets Soo-jin be the mother that she could only hope to have been.
“Broker” is a 2022 Social Drama film directed by Hirokazu Koreeda.