Le Buone Stelle, the review | Nerd League

let’s begin the review of Le Buone Stelle saying the Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda, winner of the 2018 Palme d’Or, went on an unofficial world tour of cinema, first filming The Truth with French film legends and then moving to South Korea for his latest film. With a cast of Korean real actors and a K-pop superstar, The Good Stars was one of the most anticipated titles in the Cannes Film Festival of this year.

Now an indisputable modern master of family drama, he continues his exploration of family formation and fluidity in Le Buone Stelle. Inspired by the phenomenon of the “baby box” which Kore-eda saw on the news, The Good Stars tells the story of a new So-young mother (Lee Ji-eun) who leaves her son Woo-sung outside a church baby box.

Woo-sung is “intercepted” by Sang-hyeon (Song Kang-ho) and Dong-soo (Gang Dong-won), who sell children to potential parents they deem fit and caring, bypassing the bureaucracies and gaps in the official processes of adoption. So-young returns for her baby and the trio embarks on a journey to find suitable adopters, while a detective (Bae Doona) follows them to arrest them for human trafficking.

The multiple storylines result in his most sprawling and messy script to date. But the clutter is also fertile for reflection: Broker raises some of the morally grayest and most complex questions in his filmography.

The all-Korean production loses some of the Kore-eda euphemism, especially in the film and music departments, but is saved by stellar acting.

The plot summary above doesn’t even begin to encapsulate the various little threads and digressions in the story of The Good Stars. Not only are the detective and his subordinate already separated from the main group of characters, there are somehow gangsters involved, a $ 50 million won debt, a separated daughter and a murder case.

Kore-eda isn’t even close to a clean version of the story, spending time on characters that are newly developed due to limited screen time. Whenever the film passes the baton to the police, it loses momentum, because those characters are clearly ciphers that are only there to affirm the theme.

Not only are there too many characters and story lines, but the sequence of events is also weak. The initial setup of the baby playpen mechanism – what is legal, what isn’t, who’s who, why So-young comes back for her baby – is delivered in an obscure way through snippets of her disposable dialogue or understated images. While characters have a basic goal of seeking buyers, their destinations are often unclear or unconvincing.

For example, there is a 20-minute detour into an orphanage that exists not to carry the story forward, but only to show the public the difficulties of operating or living in a Korean orphanage. These storytelling problems are not characteristic of a director who is now a veteran with fifteen films behind him. Below is the trailer published on YouTube:

Non-binary resolutions

The Good Stars, the review:

We continue the review of the Good Stars by saying that what compensates for these flaws is the thematic exploration of the film.

With its sensitive subject of abandoning children after birth, the film was already sparking explosive debates even before the US Supreme Court revoked abortion rights.

Some American critics jumped out of their seats to point to the film as “pro-life propaganda”. While it is true that one character refers to abortion as “killing a child before he is born”, this it doesn’t necessarily mean that the film approves of that point of view.

The most incriminating thing is that the film reaches its emotional climax when several characters express gratitude for being born, which audiences (especially Americans) can read as indicated above, even if it is not stated.

But the film doesn’t really claim, especially not universally, that being born is better than being aborted. Is baby Woo-sung really better than he was born? Tossed by factions of adults like a ball, Woo-sung finds himself with an uncertain, fragmented and doomed future.

The Good Stars presents a world without winners and children are the biggest losers of all.

She is cynically aware that her adults see every child as a money opportunity, whether it be for adoption costs or orphanage funding.

If anything resolute, the film is against childhood abandonment, which can also be read as pro-abortion, as a character suggests several times. It helps that adults are downright morally reprehensible. Although Kore-eda’s main characters have been thieves and other questionable types before, they have never been proud human traffickers. While the characters almost make themselves good people for their stubborn pursuit of loving adopters, the film repeatedly reminds us of their misdeeds and forces us to think: Are there really any good guys here?

Final Considerations

The Good Stars, the review:

Working in Korea hasn’t made Kore-eda lose its thematic nuance, but there is something odd about her tone and visual transmission of emotions. Kore-eda immersed himself in the ever-expanding Korean film industry by borrowing the cinematographer Hong Kyung-pyo and the composer Jung Jae-il from Parasite with rather strange effects.

He has opted for digital cinematography for the second time in his career, and on-screen sophistication cancels that visual rawness present in his other films, although the film tries to compensate with natural light.

Jung presses the piano a little too hard in the score, often dictating the emotions of the audience, a melodramatic trend that clashes with the sobriety of Kore-eda. Luckily,

Kore-eda maintains her ability as a director, often using very clever blocks to tell the story over and over.

For The Good Stars, Song Kang-ho won the Best Actor Award at the Cannes Film Festival, which was widely regarded as a comeback award throughout his career.

While Song Kang-ho once again plays a pathetic everyman with fearless vulnerability, he doesn’t stand out in this ensemble piece.

If there is a lead, it is the K-pop phenomenon IU, here credited in his full name Lee Ji-eun. Her role as a lower-class killer prostitute would be classic Hollywood Oscar catnip, but her IU plays So-young with no sign of glitzy performance or idol self-awareness. She fulfills the Herculean task of a celebrity – a world-conquering phenomenon, in her case – disappearing into a character.

Le Buone Stelle left the Cannes Film Festival with lukewarm, if not negative, reviews, and many felt let down by the sky-high expectations. While it is undoubtedly due to an error in the basic storytelling – some might even consider it a failure, understandably enough – the thematic scope shows a prominent director still willing to innovate.

To his chagrin, Kore-eda is often compared to another Japanese master of family drama, Yasujirō Ozu, and these comparisons can be superficial. But what is striking about the two men is that, like Ozu, Kore-eda has devoted nearly his entire career to one topic and one genre. The fact that he continues to find new angles and paths within these narrow parameters that he has imposed on himself is not a testament to his limitations, but of his singular talent.

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Le Buone Stelle – Broker

Review by Laura Della Corte

We conclude the review of Le Buone Stelle by saying that it is another essential chapter of Kore-eda’s study as an author in the most traditional sense, with recurring thematic concerns and obsessions. Japanese cinema cannot be enclosed in the parameters we use to analyze any other film, each sensitivity should be analyzed in its own unique way.

ME GUSTA

  • The all-Korean production loses some of the Kore-eda euphemism, especially in the film and music departments, but is saved by stellar acting.
  • Kore-eda maintains her ability as a director, often using very clever blocks to tell the story over and over.
  • The director opted for digital cinematography for the second time in his career, and the sophistication on the screen cancels out the visual harshness present in his other films, even as the film tries to compensate with natural light.

FAIL

  • While Song Kang-ho once again plays a pathetic everyman with fearless vulnerability, he doesn’t stand out in this ensemble piece.


Le Buone Stelle, the review | Nerd League