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I’ve written countless film reviews for The Talon over my three years on staff and in nearly every, if not all, I’ve found something I didn’t like. “Parasite” is not one of those films, and this is not one of those reviews.
Under the direction of Bong Joon-Ho, “Parasite,” a Korean film, follows the unemployed Kim family as they slowly overtake the house staff (tutor, art teacher, driver, housekeeper) of the wealthy Park family. “Parasite” is one of the most intentional and well-executed films I’ve seen in a long time, examining class inequality with bite and nuance and making important progress for Asian representation.
To begin, every single moment in this film felt important. Every shot, every line that came on screen had purpose. Take the Kims residence versus that of the Parks, for example. The Kims live in a cramped basement apartment with the barest view above ground. The Parks, on the other hand, live on the top of the hill, with a spacious view of their tree-lined lawn through floor to ceiling windows. The placement itself signifies the Kims’ fundamentally lower status as compared to the Parks. Yet, at the same time, they’re still fundamentally important; although unseen and hidden, they live literally beneath the earth, beneath the foundation that the Parks’ house needs to be built upon.
Additionally, the actors are simply incredible. Choi Woo-shik plays the eldest son of the Kim family, Kim Ki-woo, impeccably: a mix of pride and cockiness with insecurity and a need to please—the perfect vessel through which to tell the story. Song Kang-ho as Kim Ki-taek, the patriarch of the Kim household, is a quiet but deeply felt presence, equal parts warmth and simmering anger, a man trying to survive. He is simply captivating to watch on screen. Lee Sun-kyun and Cho Yeo-jeong are also incredible as the father and mother of the Park family. They make this wealthy family likable, characters hard to hate without effort. This adds so much nuance to the film as a whole and makes this issue as messy as it is in real life, makes them as complicated as humans truly are. Finally, the film’s pacing is outstandingly even. While this may seem like a small thing, uneven pacing can derail the entire viewing experience. It is extremely difficult to make an evenly-paced film, but “Parasite” pulls it off.
I have too many good things to say about “Parasite” to ever fit into an article and keep it free of spoilers, so all I’ll tell you is that “Parasite” epitomizes what film should be. It has transcended language barriers—becoming the first Korean film and 12th foreign film to be nominated for Best Picture in the Oscars’s 91 year history—because it does what good cinema should do: it tells a human story with heart and novelty. The issues it deals with are widespread and deeply felt, even here in the U.S. Even so, the film doesn’t sacrifice its “Korean-ness” and is, in this way, helping the progress of Asian representation in media in a major way. Visibility matters, and “Parasite” exposes so many diverse audiences to Korean culture and Korean faces, showing that they can be— and are—just as complex as anyone else. “Parasite” demonstrates that Asian films and Asian faces are not financial risks. Most importantly, I hope its success can inspire more Asian creators, push them to take a chance, to pursue what they love, because Asian stories deserve to be told and people want them to be told.
“Parasite” is one of the best movies I’ve seen in years and it has stuck with me even weeks after seeing it. It’s deeply nuanced and intelligent while remaining enjoyable and accessible and I encourage anyone and everyone to watch it. After all, as Bong Joon-Ho said while accepting the award for Best Foreign Film at the Golden Globes, “Once you overcome the one inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.”