The award for best film of 2019 goes to Parasite. Parasite is an unforgettable film that caught us completely by surprise, captivated us, defied genres, and subverted our expectations. This Korean black comedy was masterfully directed and co-written by Bong Joon-ho, known for his hit films The Host and Snowpiercer. It’s best to go into watching this film knowing as few details as possible, so we won’t reveal anything major here. Letting the events of the film sneak up on you is a key part of what makes this film such a thrilling ride. But trust us when we say, this is the must-watch movie of 2019.
Parasite follows the struggling Kim family. A young man named Ki-woo, his sister Ki-jeong, his father Ki-taek and his mother Chung-sook live together in a cramped basement apartment and work odd jobs like assembling pizza delivery boxes to get by. When Ki-woo’s friend Min is about to travel abroad, he recommends Ki-woo as a replacement in his position as an English tutor for the teenage daughter of the wealthy Park family. Ki-woo uses forged documents made by his sister to pretend to be a college student and gets the job. Eventually, his other family members scheme their way into getting jobs with the rich but naive Park family.
As our reviewer Rafael Motamayor wrote, “The result is a symbiotic yet fragile relationship where both families depend on each other, but greed and class prejudice threaten to destroy them both.” Like Joon-ho’s previous Snowpiercer, at the core of the film is a strong commentary on social class division. We think about the title and wonder who the parasites are. Perhaps it’s everyone involved, as both families are feeding off of each other.
Parasite starts out clearly as a slapstick comedy and evolves into something much darker. By the end, it cannot be defined by any single genre. It mixes elements of satire, thriller, and horror, keeping you locked in suspense until the very end. Adding to the tension is the superb cinematography. Cinematographer Hong Kyung-pyo utilized lighting, rain, and vertical compositions to show the contrast between the rich and poor families. The home of the Park family is bathed in sunshine, while strong rains and darkness flood the home of the Kims. The smooth, purposeful camera movements are accompanied by a haunting, operatic score from Jung Jae-il, that effectively make you feel every twist or revelation in your bones.
The film is perfectly cast, with each actor delivering incredibly strong performances. Particularly Park So-dam as the daughter, Kim Ki-jeong, who is clearly the smartest person among the cast of characters. It’s devilishly entertaining to watch the Kims each work their way into employment with the Parks. As our reviewer Rafael Motamayor wrote, “By having the actors hold back and reveal their true personalities little by little, it presents us with enough perspectives that the audience can see their own beliefs reflected and their biases confronted.”
Parasite is the kind of film that will stick with you for days, and make you want to talk about it. It’s thrilling, stressful, at times hilarious, and haunting. It takes you on an unforgettable ride resulting in an ending that you will never see coming. The class divide at the heart of the film is something that is universally relatable, and will make you question your own biases. Bong Joon-ho is a master filmmaker.
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