Release date – 7th February 2020, Cert – 15, Run-time – 2 hours 12 minutes, Director – Bong Joon-ho
A family manage to fraudulently make their way into obtaining jobs for a very wealthy family that they are all unqualified to do
Parasite, the latest from Okja and Snowpiercer director Bong Joon-ho, has been one of the quiet (ish) frontrunners of this years awards season. While it seems that titles such as Joker, The Irishman and Marriage Story have been picking up the most attention and steam in the race for Best Picture one of the other potential nominees that has been heavily talked about is Parasite. In fact it appears to be this year’s Roma; especially if it does get nominated for the top prize, and a number of other awards at the upcoming Academy Awards. And it’s no surprise why, because the film’s great!
The Kim’s are a struggling family, barely able to make ends meet in their semi-basement apartment. They spend their days mostly making boxes for a local pizza place, earning barely any pay for it. They rush to get more done and therefore make mistakes, which means earning even less money. However, things change when a family friend goes to study abroad. The son, Ki-woo Kim (Choi Woo-shik) is told to pretend that he is a graduate in English, so that he can tutor the student that his friend taught before going abroad. It just so happens that the girl that Ki-woo will teach is part of a very wealthy family. Soon the Kim family find themselves lying and fraudulently working their way into various jobs for the Park family. Disposing of those already in the position and making it seem as if they are all just friends, or friends of relations who have been working in their respective industries, such as driving, housework or teaching for many years.
The high levels of tension created by the fact that the Kim’s could be found out for who they really are at any second contrasts well with the successful doses of satirical humour that are spread throughout the plot and a number of the lines of dialogue throughout the piece. There’s no denying that this is a very funny film. With humour that helps to create a natural tone alongside engagement with the characters as they try to earn money to make their way in the world. The difference between the lifestyles of the two families showing a commentary on class and wealth, but also what it can do to anyone and what people will do to get it. Fully forming the satire while also creating a tension on par with the best of thrillers. As already mentioned with whether the Kim’s will be found out but also at how far they will go to keep their positions and obtain more.
Gradually the film becomes about greed and obsession, putting on an act and much more. As more is revealed and things begin to get better for the central family the tension also continues to rise. Placing the viewer in a place of constant edge-of-your-seat suspense. Pushed further not only by the wonderful pacing throughout the piece, helped by Joon-ho’s screenplay and direction, but by the brilliantly strong performances throughout the piece. None more so than Song Kang-ho as the father, and general leader, of the Kim family. Within him lies a great deal of the hope and desire of the family, but also the fear and worry that each one holds.
There’s a great deal of care and detail put into this film from both Joon-ho and all members of the cast. Helping to create a complex, layered and detailed piece that immerses the viewer within the world, at times almost as if they’re trapped in it – to the benefit of the tension, and at times slight fear factor, that the film creates. Almost immediately the audience is gripped by the film, brought into the world and engaged from start to finish. Intrigued by the story of the central family that they see. Initially trying to make ends meet and quickly being consumed, to violent degrees, by greed and obsession. Key elements that work towards the hints of satire while also working well with the breathless, nail-biting tension.
It’s difficult to talk about the elements that make this film so great without going into spoiler territory, one event links so well into another that once you begin to discuss one point you find yourself almost naturally discussing the other elements. And this is very much the case with the flow and pacing of the film as a whole. Things flow wonderfully well into each other, the 132 minute run-time flows by wonderfully quickly and is a pure joy, even if at times it’s a painful and sweat inducingly tense joy – the same way that some have described Uncut Gems, which if you were to watch in a double bill with Parasite your heart may very well explode due to how fast it’s beating from the relentless tension and gripping nature of the films.
Everything within Parasite works. It clicks and simply flows from tension into suspense into panic, worry and so on. Filled with a range of feelings and emotions this is a brilliantly tense film. Dominated by powerful directing that enhances the detail of the screenplay, alongside the fantastically strong performances that help to further convey new ideas and feelings. This might be a film that changes with repeat viewings, that remains to be seen. However, it’s sure to be as captivating, tense and gripping as it was the first time round, if not potentially more so.
Overflowing with tension thanks to the detailed nature of the script, also featuring appreciated elements of satire Bong Joon-ho’s latest is a true cinematic experience. One which has a wonderfully gripping impact on the viewer and brings them along for an unpredictably intense ride come the end of the film when everything comes together in the best way possible.