In a time when we are inundated with franchises, superhero movies, sequels, and remakes, a film like Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite is a breath of fresh air. Let’s be real, it still would be even without all of those other types of films crowding the cinema landscape. Stunningly original and at turns hilarious, surprising, and deeply tense, Parasite is – quite simply – a masterpiece.
Bong Joon Ho’s riveting, genre-bending thriller explores the volatile, symbiotic relationship between two families in South Korea. The Parks are incredibly wealthy; the Kims, rich in street smarts but very much not in terms of material wealth. Kim Ki-woo (Woo-sik Choi) happens to learn of an opening for a tutor position with the Park family through a friend. While he is unemployed and does not have a degree, he manages to… let’s say… scam his way into employment with the Park family. Through some questionable circumstances, Ki-woo manages to help the rest of his family gain employment they are not exactly qualified for with the Parks as well. As the Kims enjoy their access to the glamorous lifestyle of the Parks, they begin to take bigger risks – and events no one could have predicted begin to unfold.
Parasite‘s Oscar nominations speak for themselves – the film is nominated for six, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best International Film, Best Production Design, and Best Editing. It’s a stunning exploration of class that will open your eyes and infuriate you at the major and minor indignities directed towards those in service industries and of “lower status.” Beyond this important symbolism, the story itself is riveting. As the Kims begin to get a little too comfortable in their newfound positions, you can’t help but feel the tension ratchet up at the risks they are taking – especially when an interloper threatens to destroy the fragile ecosystem they have so carefully cultivated.
The performances are all wonderful, but I especially enjoyed So-dam Park as Ki-jung, Ki-woo’s sister. She is delightfully committed to her fake identity as an art tutor to the Parks’ young son and the source of some of Parasite‘s funniest moments, while also clearly displaying her street smarts and will to do what it takes to survive.
It has been fantastic to see a foreign language film achieve such well-deserved mainstream success in the US. I hope to see Parasite win many of the awards it is nominated for at the Oscars this weekend, and to see other incredible international films become more widely available and acclaimed. As Bong Joon Ho said so eloquently at the Golden Globes last month, “Once you overcome the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.”
Parasite is available now on Digital, Blu-ray, and DVD.