Review of 'Parasite'

parasite.jpg You could be forgiven for thinking that this film might be a horror flick, perhaps featuring a hideous creature, a la, Alien, bursting from various parts of human bodies. You could be forgiven but you would be wrong. This is a slightly calmer picture about social parasites though in parts perhaps just as much horror as an alien version…

Ki-Woo Kim (Choi Woo-Shik) is a young man living with his family in a poor suburb of a large South Korean city where they make money folding boxes for a local pizza shop. When offered the chance to be an English tutor for the wealthy Park family Ki-Woo quickly has some education certificates forged and convinces Mrs. Park (Choi Yeo-Jeong) he is suitable for the position. Gaining her trust, Ki Woo, now being paid handsomely, is able to suggest his sister Ki Jung (So-Dam Park) to be an art tutor for Mrs. Park's young son Da Song (Hyun-Jun Jung). After Ki Jung frames the Park's driver he is fired and the Kim's have their father Ki-Taek Kim (Song Kang-Ho) take over the role. Soon enough, the Park's housekeeper is replaced by the final member of the Kim family, their mother Chung-Sook Kim (Jang Hye-jin). Now raking in the money it seems the Kim family is all set, but then fate steps in…

A fascinating story that keeps you guessing throughout. Not knowing too much about the film is perhaps a good thing (and my synopses leaves a large chunk out for anyone wanting to watch) as I was always second guessing where things might go. The fact it is a Korean film had me thinking it could be a bit of a gore-fest but it is more of a melodramatic evaluation of societal class structures that, at least initially, never entirely takes itself too seriously. Even the depredations of the Kim's accommodations are treated in a lighthearted way with off-hand comments about their cockroach infestation or the grim acceptance of having to stretch into the corner above the toilet to get access to a free Wi-Fi connection. Of course this is stark contrast to the Park's ultra modern home with beautiful grounds surrounded by tall walls isolating it from the city.

The compelling characters draw us into the story so that we are truly anxious to see what will happen next and the story never fails to deliver one surprise after another. Despite watching this in the UK the fact the story is set in Korea is never really a barrier to understanding and appreciating what is going on which is tribute to the excellent production team. It is the concentration on the quirky, but relatable, characters that draws us in and begin to care about what is going on. No one here is perfect and despite their obvious dishonesty we can't help but be sympathetic to the Kims as they weasel their way into the Park's home. There is a significant plot twist about half way through the film that turns everything on it's head and everything becomes much more serious which really raises this film to an entirely new level, revealing a much darker side to the story that culminates in a dramatic fashion. Note that there is a reason this film is an “18” certificate…

The film looks great with cinematography that is almost invisible, seamlessly drawing the viewer in and taking us from one scene to the next. The incredible use of the brilliant, harsh, light of full daylight cuts to the dingy dark interior of a concrete bunker, providing a dramatic contrast that really keeps us interested. Seamless camera moves follow the characters and heighten the dramatic moments where often no one has to say anything for us to know what is going on. This is film-making of the highest level with an honesty that is seldom found in modern cinema.

Highly entertaining though occasionally deeply disturbing look at modern life through the eyes of those at both the bottom and top ends of society with a twist half-way through that at once shocks and draws you into the story up to it's dramatic, poignant, finale.

Note: I saw this film in the original Korean with English subtitles.

Rating: “I have absolutely no complaints”

Review Date: 2020-09-04

Directed by: Bong Joon Ho

Studio: Barunson E&A

Year: 2019

Length: 132 minutes

Genre: Melodrama

Other reviewed films by Bong Joon Ho: