Parasite is the talk of countless names in the movie industry around the world. Why wouldn’t it be, when it is the first South Korean film to win the Palme d’Or, the highest award in the prestigious Cannes Film Festival?
The film marks director Bong Joon Ho’s second entry for the Palme d’Or to the prestigious film festival, with his first being Okja in 2017. While the Netflix-released film divided film critics, Parasite achieved universal acclaim.
When you watch the film, it’s easy to understand why.
A Family Scam Turned Sideways
Parasite takes us to the life of the Kim family, composed of the father Ki Take (Song Kang Ho), the mother Choong Sook (Jang Hye Jin), the son Ki Woo (Choi Woo Shik), and the daughter Ki Jeong (Park So Dam). The family lives in a scruffy semi-basement apartment, and they struggle to make ends meet by folding pizza boxes. As if to emphasize their poverty, the family leeches off their neighbors’ Wi-fi, a rare sight when most citizens in South Korea is fully connected to the Internet.
By a stroke of luck, they find a way to earn money. Ki Woo’s friend Min Hyuk (Park Seo Joon) is leaving to study abroad and suggests that Ki Woo take his place as an English tutor for the sophomore daughter of a wealthy family. (Interestingly enough, Choi Woo Shik plays a minor role in Park Seo Joon’s film The Divine Fury, which simultaneously premiered in Philippine cinemas with Parasite.) Here, we are introduced to the Parks, a stereotype of a cookie-cutter rich family—the businessman father (Lee Sun Gyun), the naïve housewife (Jo Yeo Jeong), the teenage daughter, and the rambunctious son. They are supported by a housewife and a driver.
After Ki Woo gets the job, he hatches a plan to have the rest of his family hired as house help while pretending that they’re complete strangers to each other. This involves getting the chauffeur and the driver fired, as well as forging documents, but they all manage. When the Park family goes away on a camping trip, the Kims lounge in the living room and celebrate the success of their plan.
Of course, all is well until something happens that ruins the plan altogether.
Well-Blended Cinematic Elements
Bong Joon Ho ditches the sci-fi elements that defined his recent films in favor of a grounded but still unconventional story. But like his previous works, the story starts out in a light and entertaining tone until the plot twist happens and suddenly, the gears have shifted and you’re left wondering, nervously, what’s going to happen next.
Thanks to Bong’s direction and Hong Kyung Po’s cinematography, the comparison between classes is highlighted. The Park family’s house is atop a hill and full of open spaces while the Kims live in a cramped basement in a flood-prone area of the city.
Of course, the cast plays the part in the film’s success. You’ll find yourself rooting for the Kim family for the success of their scheme until you realize the effect of their economic aspirations on those who were fired. The Parks, though naïve, weren’t portrayed as explicitly evil even if their wealth has made them desensitized to people who don’t belong in their class.
Essentially a black comedy with a rich streak of social commentary, Parasite is a delight from start to finish. Catch it exclusively on SM cinemas.