It’s been a long time coming but a South Korean film has finally received the top honours at the most celebrated film festival on the planet, something that should have happened a long time ago. Winner of the prestigious Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, Parasite finds Bong Joon-ho returning to his roots, for his latest is also his first film in a decade to feature an all-Korean cast & crew, and presents the distinguished filmmaker in sublime form as he brings his unique brand of storytelling to deliver yet another cleverly layered & defiantly eclectic entertainment that will take its viewers through a whirlwind of emotions.
The story concerns an unemployed family of four who live in a squalid basement-level apartment, and make ends meet by working low-paying gigs. But their fortune changes when a friend asks their young kid to take over his job as an English tutor for a wealthy family. Summoning up the courage to pose as such, he soon comes up with an elaborate but insidiously subtle scheme to bring his entire family into the lavish mansion albeit in different job roles. As their livelihood improves and they all get a taste of the glamorous lifestyle of the riches, an unexpected incident triggers a chain reaction that leads to far-reaching consequences for the family.
Written & directed by Bong Joon-ho (Memories of Murder, Snowpiercer & Okja), Parasite is possibly his best film since the 2003 murder mystery that brought him global recognition, and perhaps his most mature & accomplished work to date. A meticulously crafted & confidently narrated black comedy thriller, the film offers a biting take on the socio-economic state of modern South Korea, and also takes a jab at late capitalism as a whole. Of course, being a Bong Joon-ho film, the heavy-handed subject matter isn’t told with straightforward seriousness but instead it comes packaged in a roller-coaster ride that will make you laugh one moment & then question that laughter in the next.
There are no wasted characters in the final print. Everyone is well-defined with genuine, meaty arcs and Bong makes their ulterior motives surface in a gradual fashion. Although the character idiosyncrasy is somewhat restrained when compared to his previous films, they remain captivating throughout. All the numerous twists n turns the plot has in store are handled with finesse. And the contrasting genre elements & sudden mood shifts tend to make sure that the film remains a gripping ride from the first frame to the last. All the technical aspects work in harmony to further enhance the viewing experience, and then there is this talented cast who bring their respective characters to life with heartfelt flair.
Song Kang-ho, Jang Hye-jin, Choi Woo-shik & Park So-dam make the jobless Kim family who takes a peculiar interest in the affluent Park family after a lucrative business offer shows up on their doorstep through sheer luck. Song has always been the most reliable actor of his industry and as expected, he is brilliant in the role of the patriarch Ki-taek. The next best showcase comes from Park & Choi, both managing to deliver outstanding inputs in their given roles. Lee Jung-eun is in as the Park family’s housekeeper and her performance only gets better as plot progresses. Jo Yeo-jeong & Lee Sun-kyun make the Park family along with two other kids and play their part convincingly. The chemistry between them is smooth & spot-on, thus leaving nothing to complain about.
On an overall scale, Parasite is an ingeniously directed, impeccably scripted & excellently acted story of two families at the extreme ends of the class spectrum, and the events that are set into motion when their paths collide. Passionate filmmaking at its best, the film is a wonderfully composed essay on the South Korean class divide that will resonate on the global level. A masterwork of first-rate craftsmanship that presents the esteemed auteur at the apex of his talents, Parasite is one of the all-round best films of 2019, and it is going to be incredibly difficult to top this one. It is hilarious, heartbreaking, suspenseful, tragic, bleak, thrilling, urgent, timely & everything at once, and further cements Bong Joon-ho’s position as one of the brightest storytellers of our generation. Very highly recommended.