SDIFF ’19 – ‘Parasite’ is a Twisting Genre-Bender that Defies Expectation

What’s the purpose of a film review really? To tell the reader if a movie is good? Parasite is. To help you decide if you should bother seeing it? You absolutely should. And then, finally, to lay out the premise of the plot, critique the artistic decisions of the cast and crew, and discuss what the film is revealing about modern day society, all without giving the film’s secrets away? Well, that’s a bit trickier a task when it comes to this film. Parasite is difficult enough to categorise and discuss with someone who’s already watched it, much less with people who haven’t yet seen it.

Bong Joon-ho is a filmmaker who’s worked in a variety of different genres. He’s done science fiction, true crime thriller, drama, and monster movies. But what makes him such a distinct and notable writer and director is the way he plays with and puts his own spin on these genres, injecting comedy or fantastical elements where one wouldn’t normally expect to find it.

Parasite is his biggest mashup yet. Taken individually in different parts, it could be called a a satire on class, a family drama, a heist film, or a thriller. When looked at altogether though the film truly does defy classification. Yet, most impressively, the tone is never inconsistent, even as it has its audience going from laughing to gasping in horror in the span of minutes. Each shift and twist feels earned and, while always unexpected, fits perfectly. This is the kind of movie that seeks to continually shock it’s audience (and does so successfully). Yet, at the end, it’s hard to picture this story having turned out any other way. The conclusion seems entirely natural.

To reveal any more than absolutely necessary about the plot would be a disservice to future viewers, but it’s safe to say this is a tale of two families, and as the title suggests, the symbiotic relationship that exists between them. The Kims are an unemployed South Korean family living in poverty. They fold pizza boxes to survive, but are at risk of losing that job too. But then an opportunity emerges when son Ki-woo’s college student friend offers to recommend him for a tutor position with the Parks, a very wealthy family with two children of their own. Though his interview and application is based on lies, he obtains the position, and soon he and his whole family become enamored with the Parks’ lifestyle, gorgeous home and their income. As the two families become closer and rely on each other more and more in various ways, the class differences between the two become extremely pronounced and reach a boiling point.

 This is truly an ensemble film, and everyone, even the Parks’ young son, is given a chance to really shine. There’s not a bad performance here, and the chemistry within the families (though very different from the Kims to the Parks) is excellent and feels just right. The cast, assisted by a remarkable score and strong cinematography, also nails the tensions that exists between the two families.

There is much more to delve into here, but Parasite is frankly best watched without any foreknowledge of what you’re getting into. And to reiterate, this film is (very) good and 100 percent worth seeing.


by Jennifer Verzuh

Jennifer Verzuh is a writer who’s spent the past year and a half travelling across the US working at film festivals after graduating college, where she studied literature and film production. Some of her favorite movies are Carol, Ida, Jackie & Nashville. You can follow her on Twitter at @20thcenturywmn or letterboxd.

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