Truth is, the less you know about Parasite, the latest release from Okja director Boon Jon-ho, the better. The film won the Palme d’Or at Cannes earlier this year, and it’s a film best-seen cold – but see it you must.
Parasite stars Choi Woo-sik and Park So-dam as adult siblings living in a dingy basement apartment with their unemployed parents. When Ki-woo (Woo-sik) lands a job tutoring the daughter of a mega-rich architect, he and his family become entangled in the lives of their wealthy benefactors.
“From simple narrative beginnings, Parasite bubbles and swells towards a jagged third act that had me on the edge of my seat.”
The two families at the centre of the movie are portrayed with charm and ease. Ki-woo’s impoverished, unemployed folks seem disarmingly content eking out an existence on the scraps they can afford, folding pizza boxes for pennies and scouring all corners of their semi-buried apartment for free Wi-Fi from neighbouring businesses. In fierce contrast, the Park family, with whom Ki-woo finds employment, live in opulent luxury. Their ultra-modern home forms the central stage for much of the action, and its gorgeous furnishings provide a captivating backdrop for the increasingly unhinged drama.
Bong Joon-ho, who also co-wrote the screenplay, is a director at the height of his powers. From simple narrative beginnings, Parasite bubbles and swells towards a jagged third act that had me on the edge of my seat. The film is enlivened by crisp cinematography and an off-kilter sense of humour that keeps its wild, nerve-wracking narrative firmly rooted in the realm of the parable, fable, or modern fairytale.
Parasite riffs on numerous themes without ever feeling the need to draw any simple conclusions or put forward a ‘message’. Films which trust their audience to come along for the ride are rare – especially a ride as unpredictable as this one. But Parasite is not afraid to go to dark places if it means spinning a powerful tale, and it’s impossible not to be dragged down with it.
At 2 hours 12 minutes, the film is not short, and I suspect a stricter editor could have tightened it up a tad. But it kept me enthralled for its entirety – no easy feat for a subtitled feature. It’s a resounding success.