All unemployed, Ki-taek and his family take peculiar interest in the wealthy and glamorous Parks, as they ingratiate themselves into their lives and get entangled in an unexpected incident.
It’s been an excellent start to the year for movies and ‘Parasite’ follows ‘Uncut Gems’ as the second film in recent succession that I’ve really loved. It comes from South Korean director Bong Joon-ho and tells the story of a poor family in Seoul who gradually start to infiltrate the life and home of an affluent family. It’s a dark satire on the class divide and it is masterfully put together, unfolding in unexpected and genuinely thrilling ways.
The Kim family live in a small, cramped basement apartment in a grimy part of the city, working in low paid jobs and struggling to make ends meet. When an opportunity presents itself to Ki-woo (Choi Woo-shik) to become an English tutor for a wealthy family, it begins a series of deceptions as Ki-woo facilitates a scheme to get the other members of his family jobs as employees for the same family by posing as qualified individuals. I loved this part of the film in particular as we watch the different techniques the Kim family use to get jobs within the household, helped in part by the naivety of Park Yeon-gyo (Cho Yeo-jeong), the Park family’s matriarch. Initially this plan seems to be paying off with the Kim family now access to regular, healthy salaries and good working conditions, but it doesn’t take long for events to take a turn and threaten their new lifestyle.
To the absolute tee, ‘Parasite’ is as tightly plotted as film’s come and no scene is wasted, with every single element of the screenplay introduced in order to pay something off further down the line. It’s a genuine thrill to watch a filmmaker such as Bong in full command of his craft, and he’s aided by some terrific performances from his brilliant cast. The themes that run through the film around the class divide and Korean society dovetail well with a plot that would entertain on its own, and every single development in the narrative had me gripped. It’s a lot funnier than expected and balances different tones incredibly well, moving from comedy to thriller to horror with rarely a blink. None of the characters in the film are altogether good or altogether bad, but it’s the subtle dehumanisation shown from the Park family to their ‘staff’ that really powers home the points Bong is trying to make, and I thought it was superbly done.
‘Parasite’ is an insanely entertaining and incredibly clever piece of filmmaking that left me absolutely floored, working both as blockbuster entertainment and thought provoking arthouse cinema, and it’s a must see when it’s out on general release.
Directed By: Bong Joon-ho
Starring: Song Kang-ho, Chang Hyae-jin, Choi Woo-shik, Park So-dam, Lee Sun-kyun, Cho Yeo-jeong, Jeong Ji-so, Jung Hyeon-jun, Lee Jung-eun, Park Myung-hoon, Park Geun-rok and Jung Yi-seo