Parasite | Review

Race, gender, sexuality and class. Every day, people across the world can find themselves subjected to assumptions and stereotypes based on these social groups. In turn, these can be used to create divisions and strife in societies throughout the world. Among societies where capitalism is dominant, there can be the starkest of contrasts between the rich and the poor, where the rich look down on and exploit the poorest, for their benefit. This seems to be unlikely material to be the basis of a sharp, social satire that puts the capitalist system under a microscope. Enter director Bong Joon-ho, who uses this premise and transforms it into a sensational piece of riveting cinema.
This fascinating tale of one family, in the direst of predicaments, taking on the system that has left them in their downtrodden situation is told from the perspective of the Kim family. Kim Ki-Taek (Song Kang-ho), his wife Kim Chung-sook (Jang Hye-jin), their son Kim Ki-woo (Choi Woo-Shik) and their daughter Kim Ki-Jeong (Park So-dam). This family lives at the very bottom rung of society, with one single source of income that leaves them barely scraping by. When Ki-woo learns of an opportunity to work for the rich Park family as a tutor for their daughter, he uses some clever deception to convince the Park family that he's the right man for the job.
Having got their foot in the door and established a relationship with the Parks through Ki-woo, the rest of the Kim family follow his example. By dabbling in similar methods of deception, they ensure that when other opportunities to work for the Park family present themselves, they are well placed to secure these positions. However, despite seeing a massive upturn in their fortunes that could transform their social standing, the Kim family cannot take anything for granted. They must remain cautious because even the slightest of missteps could bring down their masquerade in an instant.

The script written by Joon-Ho and Han Jin-won packs a lot of weighty and important themes into its premise of social class and the greedy nature of the capitalist society. Yet, this is merely the tip of the iceberg in terms of the marvellous story that has been constructed. Like all master storytellers, this substantial subject matter is combined effortlessly with sharp, brilliant, and very relevant humour. As an audience, you think you know where the story is going, but the film is always one step ahead. It has so many tricks up its sleeve that nothing prepares you for the audacious direction the story goes in.
With impeccable performances from every single member of this cast, the spotlight belongs on every member of the Kim family. At first, there's nothing but sympathy for them as the impoverished nature of their dwellings is made crystal clear. Even as the film goes on, and they begin to use deceptive methods to improve their situation, you don't find yourself disliking them. The hand they have been dealt with, and the compelling performances from each member of the Kim family give keeps the audience on their side. 

Given that the Kim family are initially the protagonists, you would think that the Park family would be the obvious antagonists in this picture. Yet, it is by no means as straightforward as that. Through some extremely clever direction, the Park family are not at all portrayed as the antagonists of this situation. Joon-ho blurs those lines in such a skilful manner that it becomes difficult to determine who's the villain in all of this.
It's crystal clear. that with every frame of this film, that this is a filmmaker with a powerful command of his craft. From the sharp social commentary to the stunning cinematography and production design, to the flawless direction, it’s all magnificently put together. This is a truly astounding piece of cinema that doesn't come around very often, meaning that it needs to be celebrated and cherished.  If Bong Joon-ho wasn't on your radar, then after watching this pulsating masterpiece, he almost certainly will be.

Parasite lands in UK cinemas from February 7th.

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