TIFF 2022: Broker Review

Hirokazu Kore-eda is a master of his craft. His cathartic dramas offer daring forays into the human soul. He enjoys painting revealing cinematic portraits of complicated characters (killers, thieves, and backstabbers). But what’s most remarkable about this filmmaker’s work is how he makes viewers empathize with societal outcasts.

Kore-eda’s latest film, Broker, hits many of the same beats as his Palme d’Or winner Shoplifters. Shoplifters is a heartwarming story about an unconventional family harbouring a missing child. Broker is a sentimental story about an unconventional family plotting to sell a baby on the black market.

As heavy as that sounds, Broker’s dark premise never drags it down into the depressing realm of other soul-crushing dramas. Instead, much of this empathetic character study feels as light and gentle as a summer breeze. Broker is a tale of grief, trauma, and desperation, but it’s just as concerned with friendship and forgiveness.

Broker begins in front of a Busan church as a rain-soaked woman named So-young (Ji-eun Lee) lays her baby down in front of a baby box. Baby boxes are drop-offs for mothers to anonymously leave their children in the church’s care.


Under normal conditions, baby Woo-sung would live in an orphanage waiting for adoption. But this is a Kore-eda film, and little Woo-sung’s life is about to get much more complicated.


In-debt baby broker Sang-hyeon (Song Kang-ho) and his partner (and former orphan) Dong-soo (Dong-won Gang) snatch Woo-sung and hide the evidence of his arrival. As awful as that sounds, the kidnapping isn’t just about earning a quick buck. Sang-hyeon and Dong-soo believe these orphans would be better off outside the childcare system. In their minds, they’re doing what’s best for the kids by getting them into loving homes.

In a strange turn of events, So-young teams up with Sang-hyeon and Dong-soo, and they set off on a long and winding journey to sell baby Woo-sung. But there’s a problem with their plan. Jaded cop Soo-jin (Bae Doona) was staking out the baby box, and she’s onto their scheme. And now Soo-jin is lurking in the shadows, waiting for the opportunity to bust the baby brokers.

On paper a crowd-pleasing movie about child trafficking is a tough sell. Kore-eda’s screenplay mines drama by placing its scrappy protagonists in morally questionable scenarios. So, the film lives or dies based on whether the cast can win over the audience’s compassion.


Fortunately, Broker’s casting department hit it out of the park with an incredible cast that delivers convincing performances across the board.

Ji-eun Lee has the most challenging job, as So-young does a lot of growing and backsliding along the way. She seamlessly makes every stage of her character’s emotional journey feel earned. You buy the performance whether she’s flying off the handle in a moment of rage or retreating into a depressive stupor.

I have a soft spot for Dong-soo, a wounded man fully aware of the chip on his shoulder. He’s jaded but still fights to grow beyond the hardships that scarred him. Somehow, despite a life of struggle, his broken heart still radiates warmth and compassion.

Bae Doona’s next bad performance will be her first. She’s magnetic in every role, and her Broker performance is right on brand. She’s captivating as a weary cop dealing with her own emotional wounds.


Song Kang-ho is as soulful as ever as the patriarch of this rag-tag family. Sang-hyeon is a man of multitudes, and the actor brings a tough balance of desperation and charm to the role.

I’m a sucker for movies about plucky groups of outcasts who find something genuine among each other. And Broker really leans into the idea that friends are the family we choose. Kore-eda uses an unconventional family to explore complicated hot button issues such as abortion and bodily autonomy. Even though we may not agree with these people, we always understand where they’re coming from.

The film sometimes feels preachy, but that’s because Kore-eda uses moral grandstanding to spotlight how life forces desperate people to make choices society frowns upon. This filmmaker cares too much for the men and women in his movies to paint them as rotten and selfish. Above all, Broker is a lesson in empathy; a story about the lost, lonely, and abandoned that will leave your “heart feeling lighter.”

Broker screens as a part of TIFF 2022, which runs from September 8 to 18. Head here for more from the festival.