As someone that doesn’t take the time to watch foreign-language films, you hear whisperings about one that’s been getting a ton of buzz over the past few months that it could be worth my time, and I’m talking major award season buzz. Parasite, the latest from director Bong Joon Ho, is the one that’s been all talk and no complaints from the film community. Not knowing a lot about it based on the trailers, it’s easy enough to see why it’s on people’s best list of the year.
What’s the Story: For the Kim family, all of them are unfortunately unemployed while living in a small semi-basement apartment in South Korea trying to make ends meet, to the point where they have no Wi-Fi and fold pizza boxes for some kind of income. They create a scheme to become employees of a wealthier family: the Park’s. As so, they find a way to trick this family by making them believe they are professional tutors, a driver, and a housekeeper within the family until they get entangled in an unexpected incident.
Joon Ho has to be one of the most popular directors to come out of South Korea. Though I’ve never gotten the chance to see any of his past films before Parasite, fans of his also love 2006’s The Host, 2014’s Snowpiercer, 2017’s and Ojka. But I’ve heard so much about his latest dark comedy back the summer when it was the first Korean film to win the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. Talk about impressive, right? I didn’t know if I would be in the minority thinking it’s not all that, but this was a fascinating watch that I’m glad to take a chance on.
This is the kind of film that you don’t know what will happen when it reaches its climax. From my interpretation of what the film’s theme is along with its title means, it examines how classes from different countries live in different lifestyles that some want to experience it for themselves with knowing the major consequences attached to them. Like how we let in strangers without knowing what’s beneath the surface. How would we fit into a world that we want to join badly? Joon Ho’s direction never becomes distracting at any given moment as it was filmed like you’re also someone trying to scam a family yourself if that makes sense. Even for a comedy, it’s never laugh-out-loud funny, but it gets a few moments of humor that worked.
We’re shown through different environments from the Park’s home where it’s an expensive home with a beautiful background, as opposed to the Kim’s claustrophobic home in the city where it can be described as crappy since they let the windows opening to get can free fumigation. Just witnessing the production design of the Park’s home is very exquisite and something nearly everybody wants to afford. Not only that, but the cinematography from Hong Kyung-pyo is shot gorgeously through every frame presented, especially when its shot outside.
All the performances are from actors I haven’t heard before, and they were phenomenal. Out of the family, it was Choi Woo-shik as Ki-woo and Song Kang-ho as Ki-taek that I noticed the most with their versatile performances. Then you also have Park So-dam, Jang Hye-jin, Cho Yeo-jeong, and Lee Sun-kyun not disappointing in the slightest with a lot of conviction shown through their respective characters that made you care about them, even when it doesn’t have either family portrayed as good or bad.
The script that Joon Ho and co-writer Han Jin-won came out with resonated with me as the film was continuing along. It shows that the Kim’s are really is smart with fooling the Parks with trusting them and not having a clue that they might be related to one another. This isn’t to say that the Park’s are dumb, but how they aren’t noticing anything suspicious keeps the ball rolling. It’s all about trust, making sure everything is according to plan, make sure there are no mistakes, treating people with respect. and so on. Another director telling this story might not replicate how original its premise or fantastic dialogue. There’s probably like a ten-minute sequence that almost had me anxiety due to being nervous about how it was going to play out. Seriously, this is of the best screenplays of the year able to be subtle and unpredictable for its audience.
As for problems, I would say the first 30 minutes took a while to get going since it felt a bit slow at the beginning. That may be because watching foreign-language films isn’t exactly my cup of tea, and it takes a moment for me to read subtitles and watching the performances at the same time. Kind of the same experience with Roma last year. After that, it kept me invested later on where it didn’t feel that long.
If this is the only non-English speaking film I’ll see all year, it was worth it. What’s also fascinating is that there can’t be another film to relate this to in my mind. Not only will get a ton of Oscar consideration, including Best Picture, but it might also as well win Best Foreign Language Picture. The only competition that this has is probably Portrait of a Lady on Fire or Pain and Glory. They just need to add four movies to show up when Parasite takes the win.
Let’s say if you want to take a brief break from the bigger films and want to sit back to take in some originality this year, here’s your chance. I’ll say Parasite isn’t for everyone, especially those who don’t have the patience to watch subtitles. As it kicks into the third act, that’s when it gets better and had no idea where it was going. Joon Ho’s direction and co-writing can’t be outmatched, the performances felt natural, and its great sense of tension brings this to truly being one of the best films this year alone.