Movie Review: “Parasite”

“Parasite” is a carefully crafted South Korean film about class and follows a family as they struggle to find employment to stay afloat. Throughout the 2019 film, they are able to convince a wealthy family to…well, to say more would be to ruin the delightful premise of the story. But, if you’ve been struggling to find something to watch during the stay-at-home orders, this film should be at the top of your list.

Written and directed by Bong Joon Ho, “Parasite” is merely the latest entry in a collection of film that span nearly 30 years, that are each a love letter to the art of filmmaking. From “Memories of Murder,” to “Snowpiercer,” to “Okja,” Joon Ho is nothing if not a vessel for the celebration of visual storytelling.

While the through-line of “Parasite” seems to be its probability and believability, it strikes a balance with its ever-present tone of social satire and commentary. It has a striking and intelligent humor throughout the first two acts that is cooked into the shocking realities – like the perspectives of a rainstorm, for instance – embedded into the story.

Another factor that drives this balanced realism home is the fact that none of the characters is completely redeemable, nor is any of them meant to be absolutely hated by the audience. The viewer sees clearly – without exhausted explanation – how and why particular characters hate others, but none of the characters become villains. This is Joon Ho telling us that none of us are superior or inferior, that none of us have anything to be cured of, so to speak. Going further, he’s saying people aren’t the parasites of this world – rather it is the systems that are parasitic to people.

So many strands go into making a movie work, and often it takes just one of them to fail to completely unravel its appeal. It’s safe to say that this production did not run into any of those setbacks or downfalls. From the stunning and patterned visuals provided by cinematographer Kyung-pyo Hong that tell us more of the story that any bit of dialogue even hints at, to Se-yeon Choi’s subtle costume design, which clearly tells us where these characters are – socio-economically and emotionally, this film encompasses storytelling from as many fronts as are possible.

One final pillar that makes this movie work so well is the performances of each actor. Each character takes a journey that is so nuanced and articulated that every beat along the way is clear and precise. The most striking performance, and in many ways the engine of every performance, is Kang-ho Song’s as the father Ki Taek. He displays moments of great restraint followed by instances of playful wisdom that ebb and flow so authentically it brings the story to a new level of elegance.

“Parasite” won four of the six Oscars for which it was nominated, including an historic win for best picture – the first foreign language film to win this award in the history of the Academy Awards.

“Parasite” is rated R for language, violence and some sexual content and is now streaming on Hulu and Prime Video.

Published by Nick Wager

Writer, videographer, video editor

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