Bong Joon-ho is one of the most exciting, vibrant, and downright fun directors working today. He has shown the ability to take what could be simple subjects and elevate them to greatness through his storytelling, visuals, and original concepts. Returning to Korea for his latest work, Parasite, he has proven once again his ability to tackle deeply troubling concepts in a way uniquely his own.
Set in Korea, Parasite feels like a story anyone, from any walk of life, could relate to. The bitter class divide is a concept that has been tackled in cinema for years, but it has never felt more real. Bong Joon-ho paints a world where everyone is ultimately out for themselves, working to exploit their fellow man, as a way to step up from the troubles of their own lives.
It is hard to sympathize with any character within Parasite. Whether the rich family that looks down on the help they bring into their home, or the family of con artists looking to exploit the gullible and trusting, everyone is out for themselves. Focusing on the son, Kim Ki-woo (Choi Woo-shik), Parasite starts off slow, giving the audience a sense of how the story will unfold. When an opportunity comes up due to a friend going overseas, Ki-woo is offered the chance to tutor for a rich family, the Parks. It does not take long for Ki-woo to convince the Parks to bring on other members of his con-artist family, slowly filling any newly vacant role needed in the household.
Bong Joon-ho does a masterful job of crafting two different aspects within the same film. The first half feels akin to a con-artist comedy, with the family finding more and more elaborate ways to further integrate themselves into the Parks lives, ensuring all obstacles are eliminated and enjoying the luxury the Parks have to offer while the family is away from the home. It is an objectively very funny film for this first half, giving this con-artist family time to flex their creative muscle and show what they are really capable of.
It is not until the half-way mark where the film shifts and things get really interesting. Taking a turn for the dark, the resentment boiling under the surface spills over, in some of the more brutal, disturbing, and enjoyable scenes of the film. Bong Joon-ho is not afraid to tackle the dark sides of humanity, and while Snowpiercer took similar concepts of the have and have-nots in a science fiction setting, Parasite manages the same feat in an oddly real and eerily familiar way.
The less said about the story the better. Parasite is a film better experienced as blindly as possible the first time though. As the twists and turns unfold and the reality the audience thinks it knows is torn down, the real depth of the movie is revealed. Bong Joon-ho has crafted a brilliant work of social commentary, one that views everyone as horrible, and shows the civilized way we live is only a facade that will crumble when poked.
Visually, Bong Joon-ho captures the different aspects of society in fantastic stark contrast. The lush yards and modern houses of the rich and the utter misery of the poor show just how vast a gulf exists between people, while still all being horrible in one way or another.
Song Kang-ho, who takes on the role of the patriarch of the Kim family, steals the show as the lovable dolt. It is through him the biggest shift can be seen, moving from lovable loser to much more as the film progresses. But honestly, everyone on-screen delivers stellar performances, each taking to their characters in ways that are believable and oddly familiar.
Parasite is a brilliant work of fiction that is as edgy as it is funny. The full cast does a brilliant job of capturing both echelons of society, making for some fantastic onscreen chemistry from all characters. If you have the chance to dive into Parasite, give it a watch—you won’t be disappointed.