Directed by: Bong Joon-ho
Written by: Bong Joon-ho, Han Jin Won
Starring: Song Kang-ho, Lee Sun-kyun, Cho Yeo-jeong, Choi Woo-shik, Park So-dam
Parasite has imperfections like any other movie. I just can’t find them.
The latest directorial effort from Bong Joon-ho (who previously directed two English-speaking science fiction thrillers, Snowpiercer and Okja) returns to his native Korean for a film that is sensational, funny, thrilling, strange, and virtually any other positive adjectives you can think of to describe it.
The opening scene is one that sets the morbidly hilarious tone the film holds throughout its runtime: the Kim family, desperately poor and living in an apartment beset by vermin, decide to leave their windows open as a fumigator makes his way down their neighborhood street. They reason that, since they can’t afford an exterminator, this will be the next best thing. The Kims then attempt to resume their lunch as billows of smoke pour into their apartment.
The Kims are on their financial last leg, and it’s only when the son Ki-taek receives an enticing offer from one of his friends that the film’s intricate and multi-layered plot begins to take shape. A plot that soon begins to involve class, deceit, and learning what the hell “ramdon” is.
Ever since his kaiju thriller The Host, one of Bong’s most consistent themes has been the power of bonds and family structure, and the lengths people will go to maintain those bonds. In Parasite, he finds the fullest realization of those themes yet. The portrait he paints of the Kim family is one that is both cinematic and strangely familiar. As we come to know this oddball pack of impoverished exiles, their verbal tics, their desires, and their intelligence, we see how universal a film Parasite is. While it’s set in the city of Seoul and the language is Korean, Parasite is a film where one of almost any culture can find something that builds a connection with them.
And while Parasite holds powerful themes of class and the strengths of family, it’s far from the only thing that makes it a modern classic. Indeed, one of the film’s strongest assets is its humor. This is a very, very funny film, with humor that is in no way lost in translation. To explain the jokes would be to give away the story, which would, unfortunately, serve to decrease one’s possible enjoyment of the film. Often, I attempt to avoid going into too much detail about any possible spoilers on the films I’ve seen, and prefer to talk about the feelings a film left me it. In lieu of any further plot discussion, I will simply state that if there is a finer film this year than Parasite, then it will have been a very good year indeed.
It’s rare to have a film to receive as much fanfare as this one. It’s even rarer to have a film that lives up to that fanfare. Parasite is such a film. It must be seen immediately.