A review of the Oscar winning film Parasite

The film released on Aug. 30, 2019 won four Oscars


Tammy Nguyen

To those who find it difficult to conquer the one-inch barrier of subtitles, it might be time to take that two-inch leap with Bong Joon Ho’s genre-defying masterpiece “Parasite.” To experience the film in its full glory, it is imperative to watch “Parasite” without any context. Although, that may prove to be an impossible task considering the publicity storm surrounding the film following its four well-deserved Oscar wins. If you have yet to watch “Parasite, I strongly recommend that you stop reading and attend the earliest showing at AmStar or avoid the internet at all costs until you can.

If you wish to reflect upon a sophisticated depiction of two opposite ends of a spectrum in a film, look no further as Bong’s “Parasite” presents two different families, belonging to two different social classes, in an elegant symmetry. While on the face of it, Bong seems to have made yet another shocking film on the class difference that exists in society today, the theme of the film runs much deeper than that and the poignant acting of the cast in addition to the determined dialogue laced with dark comedy are what makes the film to another level.

Ranked as one of the top-grossing films in the foreign-language category, “Parasite” surpassed the expectations of millions of viewers. While the two hours running time may seem like overkill, it granted Bong the ability to capture the fears, innermost thoughts, and realities of his characters with his great attention to the smallest details within each scene. The filmmaker paints the grim picture of how poverty, social classes, and entitlement deny most struggling Koreans the opportunity to live a fulfilled life. Briefly, the film juxtaposes the lifestyles of the highly affluent Park family and the obviously disadvantaged Kim clan. Drowning in debt, misery, and penury, the Kims hatch a plan to seek long-term employment in Park residence.

Carefully crafted through the eyes of a Korean family, the Kims, “Parasite” follows the trajectory of Ki-woo (Choi Woo Shik) when he gets a job as a home tutor for the teenage daughter of the wealthy Park family, Da-hye (Jung Ziso). In short time, Ki-woo manages to manipulate the Parks into hiring his entire family as their house help and through a series of well-executed recommendations, Ki-woo convinces the wide-eyed Mrs. Park (Cho Yeo Jeong) to hire his sister, Ki-jung (Park So Dam) as an art therapist, their father, Ki-taek (Song Kang Ho) as a veteran driver, and their mother, Chung-sook (Chang Hyae Jin) as a housekeeper. Eventually, the Kim clan is able to infiltrate into the Park’s residence where they experience firsthand the merits of living in absolute wealth and abundance. Having come from a household of severe lack, the Kim’s immerse themselves in this newfound world while religiously concealing their identities, for example, Ki-woo going by the name Kevin and Ki-jung as Jessica. As time passes, the Kim’s realize that not everything glitters, even for the rich.

Bong tells this riveting story through a satirical yet serious perspective. Amidst all the humor and wit, a gloomy and grim tale about the hardships of most Korean families are brought to light. For example, the Kim family is introduced to the audience with their typical everyday routine, where Ki- woo’s father, Ki-taek and his mother, Chung-sook, are sitting in their basement, with the hope that they will be able to catch some free wifi signals in their basement, with the windows wide open, to let the bug fumigation from their street into their house. On the other hand, the Parks are introduced when Ki- woo first visits their modern mansion, designed by a famous architect, with all its luxuries and house help to maintain that thing of beauty. The two pictures could not contrast more. However, Bong uses his clever direction to paint an entirely different picture. Throughout the film, Mr. Park (Lee Sun Kyun) is shown to go up the stairs in his pristine home, whereas the Kims are shown to go down the stairs to

reach their semi-basement and this is to reflect that while the direction that the two families are going to maybe opposite, but their journeys are the same.

With this film, Bong claims that the movie is “a comedy without clowns, a tragedy without villains” and leaves it for the audience to decide their emotions with respect to both the families.

With a convincing performance was given by all the cast members, especially Song Kang-Ho and Choi Woo-Shik, each actor and actress presents their character’s thought process with such mastery that “Parasite” takes the audience on an emotional and intellectual roller coaster, where they are forced to confront two sides of the same coin. At the beginning of the movie, a comical tone is assumed as the Kim’s hilariously lie to the Park’s about their professional qualifications, albeit to secure employment. However, the amusing tone quickly deteriorates into a sorrowful and disheartening one once the families discover the truth. Bong tastefully infuses irony, comedy, sophisticated cinematography and lighting to expose the ills plaguing most Asian communities. “Parasite” challenges the audience to come to terms with the love-hate relationship that they develop during the film with the Kims and the Parks, who leave you questioning if there was ever a right family to root for.