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Film Review: Parasite (2020)

Parasite (2020) is a South Korean dark comedy thriller that has broken several records and is the first-ever Korean film to be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. Directed by Bong Joon Ho, this film stars Kang-ho Song, So-dam Park, Choi Woo-shik and Cho Yeo-jeong. When Ki-Woo’s (Woo-shik) friend Min-hyuk (played by Park Seo-joon) offers him a job tutoring for the daughter of an upper-class family, he comes up with a plot to get the rest of his family jobs in the same household.

Unlike other films, where it feels like there are one or two great performances and the rest blend into the background, this is a true ensemble piece and every single performance stands out in their own way. It is hard to pick one or two individual performances because everyone is that superb in the roles that they are given. It also helps that they all have layers to their characters and feel natural, not just purely good or purely evil. They have conflicting ideas and difficult situations to face, and that enhances the performance that is given by all of the cast throughout. Even the child actors are superb here, which is tough to pull out at some points.

The script is incredibly clever and tight through the entire film, with many links being made throughout between the start and the end of the film. I adore the title of the film, taking a more metaphorical approach to the subject matter (which is even more fun when one of the characters seems obsessed with the idea of metaphors himself). The themes of the film are ones that are seeming to get more representation in the film industry, one of the 1% against the 99% and rebelling against the class system, and yet it is done poetically and in a fun manner. It manages to educate the audience about the broken system in Korea (as well as worldwide) whilst still being thoroughly entertaining throughout.

This film may have the best use of production design in a film in the past year, purely down to the construction of the Park house, which is carefully thought out on every level. From the secret passageways to even the location of the stairs, the paintings on the wall and the CCTV cameras, Bong Joon Ho is very clever at what aspects of the house is revealed and when they are utilised, making us very aware of their surroundings but afraid of not knowing the real truth about their location.

It may seem like a bold claim to make, but I would argue that the first hour of this film is perfect on every level. The set-up is a very strong hook that leads to more chaos breaking out, each twist and turn feels natural and also very well written, the characters are incredibly strong in their personalities and motives and each aspect is not only strong technically, but engaging and entertaining to watch. The balance between drama, suspense and humour are excellently done, making me laugh one minute and grit my teeth the next.
The BBFC rating at the start of the film spoils that there is going to be a lot more than what sees the eye at the start of the film, and anyone going into this film blind may be confused as to why phrases such as “sex” and “strong bloody violence” appear before the film is shown. After the first hour, I still had no idea how these themes would progress into the film but it all changes very quickly tonally. Whilst I loved the scenes that these sequences were in, and they had some fantastic use of dark comedy to break up the horror, I am not sure if I fully like the complete tonal shift this film takes. It is a 180-degree change with no room to breathe, and I feel like I need to give this film at least one more watch in the cinemas to see if it does work for me or not.
Given how quickly this change happens, it also changes the pacing of the film. Whilst the set-up goes at a nice pace, not knowing how long all of the events take place and having it feel natural and progressive, this change in tone also ramps up the pace at a point where information is being thrown and not having time to process. This may also be something that changes on a re-watch, but I just wish this film even had an extra ten to twenty minutes added on to really let the change of tone settle in and allow me to digest what I was witnessing on screen.

Technically, this film is outstanding on every level, from the cinematography and editing to the screenwriting and performances. The complete tonal change this film takes is a bold move, and one that I can appreciate even if I am not fully sold on it. This is a film that I would easily recommend everyone to check out, and I believe a re-watch on my behalf will raise my rating even higher than what I am giving it right now.


Have you had a chance to check out Parasite yet? Is this your film of the year like many other people, or did you end up being disappointed by the hype surrounding it? Let me know in the comments section and let’s have a discussion.

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