Director: Bong Joon-ho
Starring: Song Kang-ho, Choi Woo-shik, Park So-dam
Review Author: Tony
It has been over three months since I sat in a surprisingly full cinema for a screening of the renowned, and critically loved, Parasite. I use the word surprise, as I’ve never seen such a large turnout for an international film with subtitles. The abundance of praise and numerous major film awards clearly hit a note with general audiences like never before making Parasite the most successful foreign language film of all time. I suppose the bigger question is why has it taken nearly three months for me to finally get a review written up. Simple, this is a film that has been on my mind for a long time, but articulating my thoughts has not been easy.
For a director with only 7 feature films to his name, Bong Joon-ho has probably one of the most diverse filmographies today. Ranging from murder mysteries, thrillers, creature features and science fiction, the director has shown no fear in tackling various genres of film. His tendency to hop from genre to genre is a sign of the talented director’s restless mind, who isn’t afraid to pack his movies with tonal shifts and dark subject matter. Parasite is his most refined film to date, one where we can truly see his shift to a master of filmmaking.
The Kim family are down on their luck, scraping a meager living through folding pizza boxes. They may have little, but they dream of more. Opportunity arises when Ki-woo’s friend leaves to study abroad and recommends Ki-woo to tutor the wealthy Park family’s daughter Da-hye. Matriarch of the Park family, Chung-sook is impressed by Ki-woo, who discovers the mother’s naïve nature and spots an opportunity to integrate his sister into another role in the household under false pretenses. Soon the Kim’s begin to fill various roles in the Park’s lives without their knowledge that they are in fact a family.
Social status and class structure are woven throughout the story. The title Parasite is a clever play on which of the two families are the real parasite, a definition which is left to the viewer to decide. The movie isn’t subtle in its message, but satire should not be judged on how it plays its cards, rather how effectively it gets its point across with some uneasy laughs along the way. The Park family appear to have everything, wealth, beauty and a lavish household but are blinded to their own ignorance and prejudice. The Kim’s are deceptive and opportunistic but also a tight family unit determined to rise above their social status. Eventually the comfortable facade each family has engineered crumbles and their differences lead to a tragic ending for both households.
Heavy themes aside, Parasite is a massively entertaining film. Expertly shot to show the contrast in both family’s circumstances, Parasite is a master craft in cinematography and visual filmmaking, much of the story unfolds with no need for the subtitles. There is no standout among the cast because each character is so wonderfully realized. The humour throughout is universal and not just segregated to Korean culture. The audience for my screening was in fits of laughter throughout, but also audibly gasped at the various twists and sudden turns in tone.
Parasite is a film that not only lives up to the hype but far surpasses it due to the expert craftmanship from Bong Joon-ho. The script is near perfect, with impactful and hilarious dialogue sprinkled with intense moments and shocking twists. Foreign films don’t quite get this much mass appeal and that is solely because of the film’s strength to present a universal theme is a relatable but Shakespearean tragedy.
Rating: 5 / 5