Spoilers might need a personal reference.
I became a fan of South Korean films watching them in Fantasia. I can tell you they know how to combine comedy and drama, and are not scared to add a little bit of a dark edge to their tone. I was wondering if that was going to be the case here. But even before we get to that, I have to tell you this movie is engaging from the opening scenes. If you are even a little bit curious, please stop reading these lines and go catch it.
Parasite is a movie directed by Bong Joon-ho who wrote the screenplay with Han Jin Won. It starts by introducing the Kims, a family living on the very end of their limited means. You’d be forgiven to mistake their lack of fortune on lack of effort. Kim Ki-taek (Song Kang-ho) and Moon-gwang (Lee Jeong-eun) have somehow taught their children, Ki-woo (Choi Woo-sik) and Ki-Jung (Park So-dam) to survive using their wits and street smarts. Indeed when Ki-woo gets a chance to become the English tutor for the young daughter of the very rich Park family, he not only acts the part to perfection – he makes sure he studies the situation so that he can slyly and almost accidentally introduce another member of the family into the household.
The Parks are a completely different deal. Dong-ik (Lee Sun-kyun) and Yeon-kyo (Cho Yeo-yeong) are rich and clueless. They’re oblivious to their surroundings and they’re easily convinced of ideas that were not their own to begin with. They’re easy prey. But as naive as they seem, they’re not innocent in this cold war of classes. I cannot delve deeper without giving it away, but as mentally prepared as the Kims are for survival through guile, they are actually performing what is expected of them in their different roles of teacher, housekeeper or driver – with some extra perks, of course. The Parks instead are all about their status.
Although the movie plays the tone between drama and comedy, there’s a dark undertone that you don’t start noticing until some big reveals take place. As much as I’d like to discuss the subtle social commentary, I think it lacks bite without knowing the twist. It’s really a bit of a punch to the gut how it feels when you realize you’re emotionally invested in these characters. I didn’t realize it until the stakes were raised. That is a difficult card trick to accomplish, so kudos to the filmmakers for that.
Extremely recommended with a warning. This is not light fare. You won’t be able to separate the plot from the social commentary, which is there without ever becoming a hurdle or a nuisance. It might take you a third, half or three quarters of the film’s length but at some point you might realize the movie has you and you’re not getting off your seat until you find out what it’s got in store for you. Try to see it with a clear head and open mind. To quote Ki-taek, if you make a plan life never turns out that way.
That will do for now.