Parasite – Film Review

The festival buzz was at its peak for Parasite, as the latest film from the accomplished director Bong Joon-Ho (director of Memories of Murder), and so its release was eagerly anticipated with hope, from me, that it would feature within 2019’s London Korean Film Festival; alas, it did not. Fortunately, Parasite was the Screen Unseen film for Odeon cinemas in December and so it was pleasing to have the opportunity to watch the film as an advance screening in the cinema.

To say that I was compelled by Parasite from start to finish is an understatement; its filming style with tracking shots are enthralling. Having watched several Korean films during the London Korean Film Festival, I was familiar with the usual genres employed in such films but Parasite seemed to defy them all! Parasite is comedic, in a quirky way, it is also a thriller, straddles class divisions and also depicts a family tale amongst other genres and is therefore likely to appeal to all ages.

Parasite truly deserves to be watched in a cinema to appreciate its nuances and the stylish cinematography. As a summary, to avoid spoilers, Parasite tells the tale of the interaction between the Park family and the Kim’s, an unemployed family, whose contrasting worlds collide with long lasting consequences. The premise of a family ensemble cast is reminiscent of the recent film The Odd Family: Zombie On Sale, which coincidentally also involves a family named Park and is from a South Korean director. However, this is where the similarities end as Parasite is a film which is much darker in tone and unconventional.

Park So-Dam and Choi Woo-Sik in Parasite
Park So-Dam and Choi Woo-Sik in Parasite

Bong Joon-Ho manages to pique the audience’s interest with brightly lit shots coupled with the effective use of indoor space, and it is surprising to realise, after the film’s 2 hour 12 minute length, that most of the scenes occur within the Park family’s home. The mundane elements of domesticity are displayed with an intriguing perspective showcasing Bong Joon-Ho’s flair. It is a slow burner but you will revel in its beauty and ingenuity as Parasite convinces that it operates solely on one level but it is in fact multi-layered and depicts social realism with empathy and pathos.

The Park family's spacious home in Parasite
The Park family’s spacious home in Parasite

The cast are beguiling to watch, every facial movement and action is accentuated, even the mere act of walking up or down stairs can convey hidden meaning, which the camera fragments. Levels of unease are also created by virtue of that effective use of space with unusual camera angles and dramatic weather conditions ratcheting up that sensation. There is a surreal nature to Parasite, which its score emphasises, and furthermore the film adopts elements of the absurd devised in such an ingenious way which is truly cinematic magic. Parasite’s apparent eeriness will certainly keep you riveted and would not feel alien to the Twilight Zone school of filmmaking.

The actors are very impressive and add breadth to their roles creating relatability whilst seeming effortlessly cool. When Ki-Woo and Ki-Jeong Kim were working within the Park family home as private tutors they certainly epitomised this level of nonchalant, understated authority creating an aura of mysticism with the unspoken, almost mythical, tutoring techniques employed. Quite simply, the actors Park So-Dam and Choi Woo-Sik, as Ki-Woo and Ki-Jeong, are compelling to watch in the different directions that Parasite follows and they carry these performances seamlessly thereby inviting the audience to be on their side.

The Park family in Parasite
The Park family in Parasite

On social media, the #Bonghive hash tag was created in anticipation of Parasite’s release, such is Joon-Ho’s acclaim. If you follow the hashtag you will see continuous messages and certainly the popularity that ensued correlates with that aura of trendiness and minimalism exuded in Parasite. Equally, the cinematography style seems to be influenced by Western techniques, in that sense, with Hitchcock style twists. Parasite will therefore have international appeal and winning the Palme D’Or at Cannes, as the first South Korean film to do so, is testament to that. However, if you are familiar with Joon-Ho’s overall style of direction then such elements will be expected but Parasite still contains the ability to surprise with its unpredictability and genre defying nature.

As for the location settings, I am certainly keen to discover these, after my recent trip to South Korea, particularly as they are beautifully shot under Joon-Ho’s masterful direction. What I will reveal to help those of a squeamish nature, where insects are concerned, is that you can rest assured as the title does not allude to such organisms but, instead, operates on the social realism level and demonstrates the impact of the human relationships forged.

Parasite is wickedly humorous and innovative and as such I am pleased that I was blissfully unaware of its plot and structure prior to watching this preview. I would therefore also urge you to do the same and avoid any spoilers in order to be truly immersed in Parasite’s fascinating world with no pre-conceived ideas and theories. The only issues with Parasite that I would presently highlight are its occasional penchant for extremity which may not be to everyone’s taste.

Parasite is a remarkable piece of extremely skilful filmmaking, it is simply a must see film, and so I am looking forward to re-watching the film on its UK general release date.

11 Replies to “Parasite – Film Review”

  1. I freaking loved this movie! Best of 2019. The cinematography was beautiful as you mentioned, acting was superb and great storytelling. My jaws dropped during the final scened. I’ve been recommending this movie to all my friends.

    1. It was great how the book was deconstructed to provide a modern feel for the film with such level of detail. By the end, I was wondering whether there was an unreliable narrator as it became so meta!

    1. My friend has told me to watch this movie – I’m taking me finding your post through this thread on twitter as a sign that I should check it out. Thanks!

      1. That definitely sounds like a sign! There are still some previews to come if you are able to watch it soon! It is brilliant!

  2. Wow this sounds like a great film & I’ll have to check it out if I can find a screening near me! I also love that you’ve managed to give a detailed review without spoiling the plot for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet, thank you!

    1. It is such an amazingly compelling film and so I hope that as many people get the chance to watch it without spoilers! The trailer is quite good to provide an insight as well. There are some advance screenings and so if there’s a Curzon cinema near you then you might find one there, as it’s the UK distributor

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