Parasite 기생충 (2019) Review

After spending the last few years crossing the international scene with Snowpiercer (2013) and Okja (2017), acclaimed South Korean director Bong Joon-Ho finally returned to his roots and made his first local film in a decade since Mother in 2009. The result is Parasite, which sees the genre maestro deftly combined pitch-black comedy and thriller with timely sociopolitical subtexts involving social status and class inequality.

Here is what you need to know about the movie: Parasite tells a family of four — Kim Ki-Taek (Song Kang-Ho) along with his wife Chung-Sook (Jang Hye-Jin) and their teenage son and daughter (Choo Woo-Sik’s Ki-Woo and Park So-Dam’s Ki-Jung) — which are all unemployed and live in a clammy semi-basement apartment below the street level.

Then along came a golden opportunity when Ki-Woo’s friend (Park Seo-Joon) wants him to take over his job since he needs to move abroad. The job in question happens to be a tutor teaching English for the teenage daughter (Jung Ji-So’s Da-Hye) of a wealthy Park family (Lee Sun-Kyun’s Mr Park and Cho Yeo-Jeong’s Yeon-Kyo). What happens next is a chain of events that seemingly goes well for Ki-Woo and the rest of his family members until a certain incident turns everything upside down.

As evidently seen in Snowpiercer, co-writer and director Bong Joon-Ho has once again trodden familiar ground on exploring class divides between the rich (Park family) and the poor (Ki-Taek family). Kudos go to Bong’s sleight-of-hand narrative approach, as he seamlessly defying genres by alternating from drama to comedy to thriller and back again over the course of its 131-minute running time. It’s like taking a ride to the uncharted territory where there are elements of surprises lurking in the corner. The kind of movie where the subsequent twists and turns are meticulously designed that subvert your expectation or you might not see them coming.

And as usual, Bong has a keen eye for arresting visuals with memorable set-pieces such as the rainstorm sequence and the brief but shockingly violent finale are worth mentioning here. Parasite is also blessed with a superb technical polish ranging from Hong Kyung-Po’s glossy cinematography to Lee Ha-Jun’s sumptuous production design.

The performances are all top-notch but if I would have to single them out, both Song Kang-Ho alongside Choo Woo-Sik and Park So-Dam’s respective roles particularly impressed me the most.

A proud winner for being the first Korean movie to nab the prestigious Cannes’ Palme d’Or, Parasite may have its minor blemishes, particularly during the voiceover-heavy coda which felt a tad too melodramatic for its own good and could have used some trimmings. But such a flaw is forgivable, given the fact the movie mostly succeeds as a captivating piece of cinema that you probably ever come across this year.

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