Metacritic (8/10), Rotten Tomatoes (****), Letterboxd (4/5), Imdb.com (8/10)
When we look to get the best out of life for ourselves, we often need to “broker” a deal to fulfill that goal. Which is precisely what an unlikely group of seemingly unrelated happiness seekers do in this heartbreaking and heartwarming new comedy-drama from acclaimed writer-director Hirokazu Kore-eda. While the film initially hooks viewers with a scenario involving a literal interpretation of the word that comprises its title – those who deal in black market babies – it skillfully moves on to explore how we attempt to get what we want out of life by brokering circumstances to our advantage, whether or not infants are part of the equation. In taking this unexpected turn, the story shows how such endeavors have both their unsavory qualities, as well as heartfelt, sincere intentions (their inherently questionable actions and manipulative practices conveniently notwithstanding). The filmmaker accomplishes this by deftly weaving gentle humor, genuine emotion and a moving soundtrack into the narrative, taking the edge off the primary troubling story thread and adding a sense of warmth that tenderly humanizes the picture’s overall direction. Thus what may be perceived beforehand as a dark and sinister tale tactfully guides audiences down a different (and heart-tugging) path. This is perhaps one of Kore-eda’s best and most personal offerings, featuring a well-crafted script and what is arguably a cast of Korean all-stars who deliver touching and delightful performances. There are admittedly a few points in the picture where the pacing sags a bit, but they’re more than made up for by its many strengths, making for a surprisingly satisfying watch, one of the most heartening releases of 2022.