If I had all this I would be kinder.

Parasite ( 2019 )

  |   Sept. 8, 2019

Boong Joon-Ho's seventh feature film was his second entry into the main competition at the Cannes Film Festival, and took him the biggest prize at the 2019 edition, with "Parasite" being the first Korean movie to win the Palme D'or. It is a tale of two families, the Kis and the Parks, who occupy opposite sides of the social spectrum, but are brought together by their mutual needs.

The Kis exist in dire poverty in a cramped and squalid basement apartment. The whole family is out of work, and they try to make ends however they can. A change in their fortunes comes when a friend of the son, Ki-woo, offers him the opportunity to stand in for him as the tutor of the daughter of the affluent Park family. The Parks are naive and trustworthy, and they accept his fake college degree without too much question. Ki-woo soon realises that there is room in the employ of the Park family for his whole family, and sets an elaborate plan into action. Ki-jeong, the daughter, joins as the art teacher "Jessica", before the current driver and housekeeper are ousted to make room for Ki-taek and Chung-sook, the parents, all under assumed identities. They develop a symbiotic relationship with the Parks, until their plans begin to unravel when the previous housekeeper returns to the house with a secret of her own hidden in the basement.

At first, it seems easy to identify the parasites of the movie, as the Kis exploit the Parks and their money to hoist themselves out of their grim existence, but as the movie progresses, the lines become blurred. Why should the Parks have so much money in the first place, and the Kis so little? The Parks express a thinly veiled disdain for the poor, commenting that the Kis all have the same, nondescript smell. Maybe it's is the smell of the detergent they use, or the cramped surroundings they inhabit, but, then again, it may just be the smell of poverty. When reflecting on the morality of their actions, especially given the kindness of their hosts, Chung-sook remarks that it's much easier to be kind when you're rich.

Parasite is a superbly crafted movie, from beginning to end. It's a layered tale of social injustice and class warfare delivered with a wonderful pace and a darkly comic timing. It draws the viewer into its madness bit by bit, all the while plotting a course towards a tragic end that seems ultimately unavoidable. It doesn't present a simple tale, and makes no judgment on any of its characters. They all have their faults. It's up to the viewer to draw their own conclusions.

Directed by
BongJoon Ho
Starring
Song Kang-ho
Lee Sun-kyun
Cho Yeo-jeong
Choi Woo-shik
Park So-dam
Runtime: 132 minutes
Parasite (2019) on IMDb