Director Bong Joon-Ho’s latest film, Parasite, is a cinematic masterpiece.
Parasite centers on a poor family who devises a plan to infiltrate the life of a high class family, and reap the benefits of the higher class. The film begins as a story of con artists, and soon evolves into a thriller steeped in the war of the class systems, leading to a gripping conclusion that will cling to you long after the film is over. Directed by Bong Joon-Ho (Snowpiercer), the film stars Song Kang-ho, Choi Woo-shik, Park So-dam, Chang Hyae-jin, Lee Sun-kyun, and Cho Yeo-jeong. We’re going to dive into some spoiler territory here so be warned moving ahead.
The film begins with the Kim family living in a half basement apartment. They keep their windows open to let the street fumigators toxic fumes fill their apartment and get rid of stink bugs. They crawl into corners to find free wifi. They live a life of poverty, but do what they can to survive. When the son, Kim Ki-woo (Choi Woo-shik) is given a job offer to tutor the daughter of the rich Park family, the Kim family devises a plan to take over every job the Park family has to offer. The daughter, Kim Ki-jeong (Park So-dam) becomes the art teacher/therapist to the Park family’s son. The father, Kim Ki-taek (Song Kang-ho) becomes the driver for Mister Park (Lee Sun-kyun). And together they convince Mrs. Park (Cho Yeo-jeong) that their housekeeper- Gook Moon-gwang (Lee Jung-eun), has tuberculosis. This causes Mrs. Park to fire Gook Moon-gwang and hire Chang-sook (Chang Hyae-jin), the mother of the Kim family, as their new housekeeper.
The first third of the film features the Kim family slowly integrating themselves into the Park family’s life. They become parasites to the Park family, living a better life than what we see in the initial scenes of the movie, thanks to the elaborate con. The process of them taking the jobs and fooling the Park family is entertaining and at times comedic, as we know by the time they get to the housekeeper, exactly how things will play out. It seems at first as if this whole film will likely be about the con, and they will have to find a way to keep this livelihood without giving away the truth to the Park family. But the film quickly turns into an edge of your seat thriller when a discovery is made within the Park house that ties back to the original housekeeper Gook Moon-gwang.
It’s hard to put into words how perfectly executed every aspect of this film is, from the story to the acting, the production design to the editing. There isn’t a single moment or aspect that isn’t noteworthy. The design of the house that the Parks live in, and where most of the film plays out, is instantly iconic. There are set pieces within the house/film that will be imprinted to your memory like other iconic film locations from classic films, things like the Bates home from Psycho, Devil’s Tower from Close Encounters of the Third Kind, or Hogwarts from the Harry Potter films. You can see an image of these locations and immediately think of the film and every feeling it gave you.
The performances by the cast of Parasite are truly incredible. While everyone here brings their A game, the stand out is undeniably Song Kang-ho as Kim Ki-taek, the father of the Kim family. This is undoubtedly an ensemble piece, where it’s hard to even say that one person specifically has a more prevalent role than anyone else. Yet Song’s performance as Ki-taek is so nuanced that it transcends everything we expect from the role. When the apartment is being filled with the poisonous gas for fumigation, he sits there folding pizza boxes (the family’s main source of income at the beginning of the film), unmoved by any discomfort he may feel. When he overhears Mr. Park talk about his body odor, the subtle and unflinching look he gives is painful and heartbreaking. Song’s performance helps drive the emotional connection we have to the Kim family. It reminds us that these people may not be perfect, and may be con artists, but they’re human beings who are doing what they can to survive and have a better life. They don’t want to harm anyone, they just want to find a way to be happy in an unjust world.
Parasite is the type of film that will linger on for years. It will attach itself to you and won’t let go- even when you leave the theater. There are too many moments in the film- shots, lines of dialogue, small moments between characters, that stick with you in the same way any iconic blockbuster film does. This is a deeply profound and powerful film that is fun and gut-wrenching at the same time. Parasite is undoubtedly one of the best, if not the best, films of the year.
Parasite is currently playing in select theaters, and is available on DVD, Blu-Ray and Digital.
Written by Alex Lancaster
(Alex is a life long film fan, and has dedicated his life to watching, making and obsessing over films. His favorite film is Big Fish, and he despises Avatar. He has a 5 year old son. And a bad habit of saying more than he needs to. Follow @alex5348 on Twitter)