Our main Parasite review, by Clare Brunton, can be viewed by clicking here.
About twenty or so years ago, before the age of social media and all the FOMO and spoilers that comes from having such easy access to the entire movie loving world, a delayed UK release for a movie that had already been out in the US for some months wasn’t such a big deal. I can remember buying an imported region 1 DVD of The Blair Witch Project and watching it on Halloween night in the UK, in the comfort of my living room and on the day it was released in the cinema. I was pretty disappointed with what I saw, but that’s not my point here. Recently, we seem to be regressing to that period in time once more – not with big releases such as Marvel movies, which we are usually lucky enough to sometimes get a day or so before the US, but with films that could be described as being a little less mainstream. The Lighthouse, Jojo Rabbit, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood and the subject of this review, Parasite, have all been subject to such treatment and, along with the delayed release of Disney+, the UK currently seems to be getting a serious shafting. Parasite though is a movie for which I’ve heard nothing but praise for what seems like forever now. It has received six Oscar nominations and is now receiving a US disc release before it’s even released in UK cinemas! Anyway, ranting aside, I did manage to avoid any spoilers for Parasite and was able to go in fairly unclear as to what to expect, and I would urge everyone else to do the same. Consequently, I will try to review it by giving away as little as possible.
Parasite tells the story of the Kim family, living in poverty in a cluttered South Korean basement. When we join them they are all desperately trying to find a spot in their home where they can pick up on a nearby public WiFi hot spot in order to connect their phones to Whatsapp (turns out, it’s in the corner of the toilet). Times are clearly tough and when the mother manages to get a small job putting together pizza boxes at home, the whole family chips in to help. They even have the pleasure of being able to view drunk men staggering down their street and urinating right outside the basement window while they try to eat at their dining room table.
A friend of the son comes to visit him one evening and tells him that he has to go away for a while. He currently has a job teaching English to the daughter of the wealthy Park family and wonders if Ki-woo would like to temporarily take over for him. Despite Ki-woo having no experience in tutoring, Ki-woo is assured by his friend that it will be easy money and, providing he can win over the confidence of the “simple” mother of the house, he’ll have no problem. Sure enough, the confident Ki-woo, backed up by a certificate created for him in Photoshop by his sister, manages to land himself a regular tutoring job. Then, with the use of charm, lies and deception, Ki-woo soon manages to secure cushy jobs within the Park household for the rest of his family – art tutor, housekeeper and chauffeur – all being introduced as either old acquaintances or referrals from colleagues rather than family members. And so, the family find themselves having to lead double lives, juggling their own poverty stricken home-life together, along with the separate lives they lead while working for the Park family as work colleagues.
And that is really the basis of the movie. It’s an elaborate scheme which, despite being deceptive and dishonest, is a lot of fun to see play out, and at times you really can get behind the Kim family and root for them. Things go comically wrong, in the kind of way that reminded me of a sitcom where a situation involves our stars getting themselves deeper and deeper into something, no matter how hard they try to go along with it and come up with a solution. And then things start to go horribly, even horrifically wrong, courtesy of a number of little twists and shocks.
Don’t let the fact that Parasite is a subtitled movie put you off and believe all the hype you come across, as this is a must see movie and I was gripped, on the edge of my seat and thoroughly entertained for the most part. There is a very clear message played out concerning the rich/poor divide – obvious at times, when you see the contrasting effect that a serious storm has on each family – and much subtler at other times. There are some elements though, surrounding the ending of the movie, which I didn’t quite buy into and that stopped this from being a full 10 out of 10 from me. I felt there was a clear point where this could and should have ended earlier, but still an incredible movie all the same.