Is it too soon to say this is my favorite movie of all time?
I just can’t remember the last time a movie made me feel this way. After the first viewing I knew it was a masterpiece. Then I proceeded to see it 2 more times in theaters. Then I bought the Blu-Ray and watched it two more times. Then I recommended it to literally every person I spoke to. Somewhere along the line, it just clicked in my head.
“Yeah, this is the best movie I’ve ever seen.”
It’s that damn good.
Now, I know everyone won’t have the same feelings as me, and that’s fine. My intention isn’t to convince you this is the best movie ever. It’s to show you why I think it’s the best movie ever.
I know I probably sound crazy, but this movie has done so much for me as a viewer and a wannabe filmmaker. I hope you’ll take the time to listen to me gush about this movie, and I hope I can convince you to at least give it a chance.
First and foremost, I believe the best way to experience this film is by going in completely blind. No synopsis. No trailers. No reviews. Nothing. That’s what I did, and I feel as if my experience was all the better for it. So, if you care enough, I would honestly not continue reading. I won’t be spoiling anything major, but I will be going over a few plot points and stylistic choices that might make you suspect something if you read first and watch later. If you’d like, feel free to skip down to the drink recipe so you have something to enjoy during your first viewing.
Okay, if you’re still reading, then let’s good into it.
Parasite is a 2019 Korean film directed by seasoned veteran Bong Joon-Ho. Before Parasite, his most notable films to American audiences were Snowpiercer and Okja. Outside of his partially American works, his resume includes Korean films such as The Host, Mother, and Memories of Murder. A common theme that can be found in most if not all of his films is the disparity in the class divide. Parasite is no different, as the focal point of the story centers around two families of different backgrounds. One is dirt poor and is forced to do odd jobs just to get by, and the other is incredibly wealthy and living comfortably.
What I love about this take on the differing levels of wealth in this film is how Bong Joon-Ho crafts both families inside a morally gray area. The Kim family, a lower class family, are constantly seen lying their way through the events of the movie. The way they manipulate other characters may seem underhanded, but survival is at the forefront of their actions. They do what they have to in order to simply stay afloat. Securing food or even proper cell service is a day-to-day struggle for them. They do what they can to protect their own because it’s all they have.
On the flipside, the Park family never has to worry about if they are going to have enough food for the day. The family is surrounded by wealth and comfort, even utilizing a housekeeper to handle the cooking and cleaning. They come off as very nice people, enthusiastically throwing money towards the Kim family for their services without a care of cost. But is their generosity from a place good intentions or is it because their overabundance of wealth has blinded them to how the rest of the world lives. $100 is pocket change to them, but a potentially lifesaving amount for another. One could say their money has made them oblivious to the struggles of the common man. Because of this, the Parks can be extremely gullible and will say “yes” to anything convincing enough. And why shouldn’t they? Money is clearly not an issue, but their sheer ignorance to the elements of the lower class, right down to how a person smells, is shockingly apparent.
The differing dynamics of the two households are utilized so masterfully that it’s hard to really say who the “good guys” and “bad guys” are. Instead of placing obvious labels on both families, Joon-Ho simply shows you their situations and how they breed their beliefs. You learn that this story isn’t about a black and white “good” and “evil”, but humans. Humans who do good and also bad. Humans that can’t simply be defined into one category. Humans that have conditioning, life experiences, trials and tribulations that ultimately form who they are and decide what they must do. Just like real life.
Just as the characters of Parasite can’t be properly placed into one category, the same can be said about the film’s genre. The film juggles so many different elements and ideas that it’s hard to really define the style of the film. At times, it’s a family drama. Other times it’s a comedy. Suddenly, it’s a nail biting thriller with even some horror elements sprinkled in. Some may think it’s sloppy writing that a film can’t stick to one or two themes, but how is it any different from real life. Somedays my life is a comedy (thanks Joker), sometimes it’s something completely different. Joon-Ho doesn’t commit to one type of genre because life doesn’t either. Every type of thematic shift experienced in this film feels genuine and believable, balanced only by the hand of a masterful filmmaker.
Anchoring the story are tremendous performances from the main cast. All actors young and old bring their A-game, but my personal favorites are Song Kang-Ho as Ki-taek and Cho Yeo-jeong as Choi Yeo-jeong. If you’re familiar with Bong Joon-Ho’s previous work or Korean film in general, then Song Kang-Ho will be a familiar face to you. The man is a veteran Korean actor and has appeared in several of Joon-Ho’s past work. Kang-Ho portrays the patriarch of the Kim family. His performance is brilliantly subtle at times, able to convey thoughts and emotions without saying a word. His expressions broadcast pain, disgust, and boiling anger so affectively that words aren’t always needed.
Cho Yeo-jeong portrays the maternal figure of the Park family, owning perhaps the most entertaining performance out of the two families. Her optimism and oblivious nature make her a joy to watch jump from emotion to emotion as the story gets deeper. Although she doesn’t really go through a character ark or a changer like some of the other characters, I found her the most enjoyable to watch.
The great thing about Parasite, in my opinion, is that it’s chock full of imagery, symbolism, and metaphors, but not all that you have to think particularly hard about. It makes the film even more enjoyable to rewatch, as tiny bits of subtle filmmaking are scattered throughout. Yet, you don’t always have to be exceptionally eagle-eyed to catch them all. The most obvious symbolism is the use of stairs to show the separation between the two families throughout the film. The Kim family’s house, which is already basement-like, is about the size of the Park family’s actual basement. Without going into spoilers, stairways continue to play a large role throughout the film as a symbolism for rising from poverty and eventually descending back into it.
A decorative landscape rock is given to the Kim family at the beginning of the film, with the implication that ownership of the rock brings great wealth. Sounds metaphorical. Hell, one of the characters even says so themselves. So, what does it mean if a character is outright pointing out a symbol in a film? Because of this, the rock transforms from a basic symbol of wealth to somewhat of a symbol of symbols. The rock becomes a representation of how people put their faith in certain “idols” or even systems with the belief it will better them. The rock, like many other things, has no discernable value until we impose value on it. The rock eventually gets put to use in the climax of the film, but the most active utilization of it comes in the form of using it as what it was all along. It’s just a rock.
Could it be anything beyond that? I don’t recall seeing a single landscape rock in the Park’s home…
There’s so much more I would love to talk about, but run the risk of running into spoiler territory. Maybe one day I’ll outline my complete thoughts on the film, talking about every little detail. I’m not a student anymore, so written essays might be behind me. However, I love this film so much that I’m sure it would come easy to me.
Until then, I’ll leave it at this. Don’t be intimidated because this film is in another language. It’s one of the most accessible international films I’ve seen, with similar pacing and speech akin to American films. Don’t be afraid you won’t understand it. Just because it takes place on the other side of the world doesn’t mean the issues highlighted in the film can’t be found in our own society.
And please, for the love of God, see it before the American remake comes out. I can’t stress that enough.
Take a chance. Read the subtitles. Open your mind. If not, you’ll be missing out on one of the best films of all time.
The Killer Peach
I decided to highlight this film with a soju yogurt cocktail that is a popular drink in South Korea. For those of you that don’t know, soju is a colorless liquor made from rice that is incredibly popular over in Korea. We even see Kim Ki-woo (Kevin) and his friend share a bottle of soju at the beginning of the movie. A popular cocktail that utilizes soju is combining it with an Asian yogurt drink (like kefir or lassi) and a lemon-lime soda like Sprite of 7-up, although fruit juice is also common. Considering how important and influential peaches are in the film, I’ve decided to use peach flavored yogurt and/or peach flavored soju to give the drink a potent but fruity taste.
- 3 ounces of soju (regular or flavored)
- 3 ounces of peach yogurt drink
- 3/4oz peach schnapps
- 3 ounces lemon-lime soda or fruit juice
- In a shaker filled with ice, add the soju, yogurt and peach schnapps.
- Pour into glass.
- Top with soda and gently stir.