Guest Submission – By Siobhan F.
The hype is very much real. It’s rare to find a movie that is so thoroughly original and captivating from start to finish. But with Parasite, Bong Joon-ho has delivered a masterpiece. It’s all at once, hilarious, thrilling, and poignant. Propelled by sublime writing and direction, Parasite is a mesmerizing social satire that is easily one of the best films of the year.
The film centers on the Kim family: the father, Ki-taek (Song Kang-ho) and mother, Chung-sook (Jang Hye-jin), and their two children, Ki-woo (Choi Woo-shik) and Ki-jeong (Park So-dam). Struggling to find work, they live in tiny basement-like dwelling, folding pizza boxes to make ends meet. However, their luck changes when Ki-woo gets the opportunity to tutor the daughter of the wealthy Park family, and takes advantage of the gullible, aloof wife. Through some amusing deceit and schemes, he manages to secure jobs for the rest of his family within the Park household. Things, however, take a deadly turn when a dark secret within the lavish home is unearthed.
Like many of Bong’s films, Parasite doesn’t fit into a singular genre or tone. The first hour is this unexpected playful dramedy. Despite the Kim’s impoverished state, the movie avoids being overly saccharine. Instead, there is a sharp and absurd dark humour overlaying all the events. The Kim family’s gradual infiltration into Park’s lives, using their scrappy ingenuity, is absolutely entertaining. And the talents of the stellar cast sell every situation and interaction. All the comedic bits highlight and mock the ignorant behaviours of the rich, as well as add humanity to the situations and characters. Parasite brilliantly recognizes the ridiculousness of the Kim’s specific endeavor, without losing sight of their plight.
The ingenious set-up of the first half of the movie is that even when things are light and fun, there is still an unsettling feeling evoked throughout. The movie isn’t a simple good versus evil tale – all the characters are quite morally complex. We end up both questioning and sympathizing with every character at some point in the film, as they all exude qualities of a parasite. Viewers are constantly kept on edge, wondering how far the Kim’s will go and whether they will get caught. Subsequently, when the final act goes through a drastic tonal change – after some sinister revelations are made – it doesn’t feel out of place, but earned. And the ending is an absolute gut-punch. It’s a shocking, yet necessary, eruption of built up intensity.
Consistent with Bong’s filmography, Parasite takes on social themes head on, grappling with the economic disparity between the rich and poor. The Kim family’s imposturous entry into the Park household isn’t something trivialized; their actions always come from a place of desperation. That fact that they excel in their new positions tragically shows how capable they are, and yet were still unable to get work. And the movie goes further than just displaying class inequity. It also effectively conveys wealthy people’s disconnected indifference and dependency on the working class, as well as emphasizing the difficulty of escaping poverty. Even once he is Mr. Park’s driver, Kim Ki-taek still can’t fully elude his otherness as a lower class citizen.
And though the social commentary is ever-present, it never feels cringey or heavy-handed. Bong masterfully weaves the themes through the narrative, incisive humour and striking visuals. We see the Park’s sleek, modern mansion drastically contrasted against the shabby and cramped dwelling of the Kim’s. This class divide is really emphasized when a flood forces the Kim family to make the long downward trek to their submerged residence, while the Park’s mansion sits comfortably atop the hills, virtually unaffected. There are several of these instances, where story is elevated by impactful visuals. The sharp script complemented by bold direction makes everything work so effortlessly and engagingly.
Bong Joon-ho takes audiences on a wild ride with Parasite. It’s stylish and clever, while still retaining a brutal honesty. This film deserves every ounce of praise it has been receiving. Fitting with the title, Parasite will surely stick in viewers’ minds long after the credits roll.