Bong Joon-ho is one of those directors whose work I’m a fan of, but I haven’t seen the work he’s done in his native country. The films of his that I’ve seen have been international co-productions, with most of the dialogue in English, those being Snowpiercer (although it took a while before I was able to watch it as intended due to the baffling release of the film in the UK) and Okja. I didn’t actually think I would be able to see this in the cinema, but some deal has been worked out between Curzon and Cineworld which allowed Parasite to be shown as a Cineworld Unlimited advanced screening. Having seen all of the accolades, I was excited to see it, and those accolades are well deserved, Parasite is an incredible piece of filmmaking.
The film follows the Kim family who are struggling to make ends meet working low paying jobs when an opportunity arises for the son, Ki-woo, to become an English tutor for the wealthy Park family. Seeing a chance for the family to make money, the whole Kim family start to make opportunities for themselves to be employed by the Park family, although not revealing they are related. That’s really all I’m comfortable giving away about the plot. The less you know about the plot going in, the better the experience you’ll have. The script by Bong Joon-ho and Han Jin-woo is one of the tightest I’ve seen in a long time. Not a second of the film is wasted and the twists in the narrative are incredibly well executed. The thematic weight of the film is strong as well, with the main focus being on class disparity, showing how the Kim family are willing to let themselves be gassed by fumigators to get rid of pests as they can’t afford pest control, whilst showing the opulent wealth of the Kim family. In this there are interesting ideas on the correlation between wealth and kindness and the ability to be performative in kindness through wealth. What also works well is that the film doesn’t lionise either family, we see the bad elements of both families and the good elements. In other films it would have been easy to make one of the families clear cut as the villains, but this is avoided here, which works better in showing the themes of class disparity. I don’t feel comfortable explaining much more, but this is going to be a film that rewards rewatches.
The performances as well are excellent. Song Kang-ho as Kim Ki-taek is great at showing his fatherly tendencies and his own sense of anger over the class divide, whilst also having some great laugh out loud moments; Choi Woo-shik as Kim Ki-woo shows the intelligence of the character well, making it believable as to how he was able to get the position as an English tutor in the first place and shows his aspirational nature well. Park So-dam as Kim Ki-jeong is excellent in showing how comfortable she feels in the Kim household, which again works in showing the theme of class disparity well and shows the improvisational skill of the character well, making her credible in her cover identity. Chang Hyae-jin as Chung-sook is great as well, although as her best elements come in the second half of the film, I won’t go into too much detail. What works wonders is the chemistry that these four performers have with each other, selling the family dynamic perfectly, with the way each character bounces off each other to sell the plan working wonders. They all also do great work with the dark comedy of the film, the more outlandish elements of the script feeling completely in character for them and their world. As the Park family Lee Sun-kyun as Park Dong-ik sells a sense of arrogance and entitlement well, although I won’t go too much more in detail; Cho Yeo-jeong as Yeon-gyo sells the naivety of the character, walking a fine balancing act that shows her love of her family and naivety, which works in showing how the Kim family was able to take advantage of her whilst not making the character a caricature, feeling like the kind of person that would thrive in the upper class in South Korea. Jeong Ji-so and Jung Hyeon-jun as the children in the Park family add to the family dynamic themes of the film, and there is great work from Lee Jung-eun and Park Myung-hoon, although to go more into detail would spoil the film.
On a technical level the film is a triumph. The production design is of special note. The design of the Park’s house is excellent, having this great feel of opulence through everything we see of it and doing a good job at demonstrating the class disparity between the families through comparing the luxury and space of the Park’s house and the cramped conditions of the house. The cinematography also works in this regard, having the scenes in the Park house be lighter compared to the scenes in the Kim house, creating another visual signifier as to why the Kim’s are so attracted to the Park’s lifestyle. It also works in establishing a clear geography for the Park’s house, which is vital for the third act of the film to work as well as it does, and will make a rewatch an incredibly rewarding experience. I also think the film does a good job in visualising smell, I can’t quite explain how but you understand the smells of the film throughout, which works for the thematic weight of the film.
Overall, Parasite is an incredible piece of work and a true testament that this kind of film is universal. This is one of the tightest pieces of filmmaking I’ve seen in a long time, everything about the film works perfectly in crafting a powerful satire, although to say more about the plot would give away the game and it is best that you go in as blind as possible.
My Rating: 5/5