Director: Bong Joon Ho
Writers: Bong Joon Ho and Jin Won Han
Starring: Kang-ho Song, Sun-kyun Lee, Yeo-jeong Jo
The Kim family are all unemployed and poverty-stricken, however through careful coordination and teamwork they begin to infiltrate the wealthy Park family by posing as unrelated, skilled workers and eventually become the housekeeper, driver, art teacher and English teacher respectively for members of the Park family. However, an unexpected turn of events then threatens to expose their façade.
Despite watching Parasite on the day of its nationwide UK cinema release (7th February 2020), I do feel like I am one of the last people in the world to see it. As this wowed critics and audiences (that are lucky enough to attend festivals) on the festival circuit over a year ago, it tended to be on many people’s ‘best of 2019’ lists, which in my view just further separates those few lucky buggers that are professional film critics from the rest of the honest film fans that only get to see films when they hit the cinemas in their own country.
Reviewing Parasite is also not an easy task, as every singly possible superlative in the English language that could be used to describe it has been done so already. All I can say is that I emphatically agree with every superlative that has been attributed to Parasite, and would implore all of my fellow UK-based film fans that are not lucky enough to be professional critics or are able to attend film festivals to seek out their nearest cinema showing Parasite and just go and see it. I of course base my ‘best films of the year list’ on their UK cinema release date, and there is already a very strong possibility that a south Korean film may very well be my film of the year for a second year running (just to remind everyone; Burning was my number one film of 2019) as I would argue that Parasite is a pure example of flawless cinematic perfection on every level.
From start to finish Parasite is a film told by a confident and assured director that is at the very top of his game; every scene, line of dialogue and character expression has a reason for being there and forms part of a narrative that is loaded to the brim with style and substance. There is not a single moment within the film that feels out or place or unnecessary, and that is very impressive considering the film has a running time of 132 minutes, which does very much fly by.
Parasite is a film that has everything; suspense, romance, comedy, satire and social commentary to name just a few of the elements that make up what is an effortlessly watchable story that just grips very tight from start to finish. It is a slightly depressing fact that if this very same film (line for line, shot for shot) was as American film set in America and in English it would be a huge box office smash. I appreciate that some people cannot get on with the way many foreign films are made, but Parasite is just pure cinema, and has a great, incredibly well told story that I feel would appeal to all types of film fan, if only certain groups of film fans could get over the fact it has subtitles. It is a film so well made that manages to have an extraordinary amount of substance and intelligence, but at the same time is incredibly watchable and accessible.
Despite the seemingly ‘high-concept’ plot, every plot development does feel grounded and believable enough within the context of the narrative to be plausible, whilst every character from both of the families involved is well developed and believable enough for us to be able to relate to them and understand them. This is crucial for the film’s dramatic final third, in which the events of the previous two thirds culminate in what is an incredibly tense, dark and engrossing finale. Even during the film’s final third Bong Joon Ho never feels the need to resort to any cheap or clichéd gimmicks, as we are already hooked in by what has already happened, and so the moments of extreme tension just happen naturally, and are dealt with effective subtlety by Bong’s incredibly assured direction.
Parasite contains a narrative that is incredibly rich in detail that repeat viewings will undoubtedly yield further rewards, and even thinking about some of the film’s key scenes long after the film has finished provides new revelations that make other scenes even the more rewarding. Of course, one of the narrative’s main themes is the social commentary of a society that is very decided by a rigid class system that makes social mobility almost impossible. Though one of the main elements of the narrative of Parasite is of course the class structure in South Korea, it can be easily applied to any other country in the world, and so this means Parasite skilfully balances being culturally unique while also being very accessible for viewers from other countries – which is just part of its effortlessly accessible nature.
As the more dramatic final third develops Parasite never loses sight of its core theme, and once what we think has been the most dramatic part of the film has taken place, even more dramatic and devastating events follow, which all culminates in a finale which can only be described as one of the most unforgettable cinematic finales of recent times – it features every type of emotion imaginable, but without ever resorting to cheap cliché. Once again Bong is in complete control of his film and makes sure that every single shot and line of dialogue in this whole sequence means something in its own right to each character involved.
I could easily write another 1000 words waffling on about just how great Parasite is, but instead I will just implore film fans of all kinds to go and see it – you will be watching cinema at its very, very best.
There may well not be a word in the English language that does justice to just how good Parasite is; it is a film that is pure cinema and a story that is told with such assured aplomb and attention to detail that it is quite simply flawless. Now, just go and see it!