There are times, and they don’t come by often, when the lights come up after a movie and I feel giddy, exhausted and even a little high because of what I just saw. When that happens, I know that I will be thinking about the film every day for the foreseeable future. I will have to tell everyone about what I’d seen and convince them to buy a ticket. I’ll have to come to terms with the fact that the $7 I spent on my ticket is only the beginning of my investment in this newfound masterpiece
Parasite is one of those films. The latest from South Korean director Bong Joon-ho, it tells the story of a poor family trying to infiltrate the life of a rich family. That’s all you need to know. Oh, and it’s brilliant. It’s a thought provoking examination of class that is a dark comedy, and a thriller, and a suspenseful drama, and even a bit of a horror film. It juggles all these genres and tones almost sequentially. Every scene unravels new layers, reveals new motivations and unearths new schemes, but the story never feels convoluted and confusing. There is a clear through-line that everything else branches coherently off of.
Parasite succeeds in every way that a film can succeed: acting, writing, directing, score, editing, production design and so on. Let me hone in on that production design aspect for a moment. I love films that use a limited number of locations and then make every detail of the environment come thrillingly to life. Parasite does this with every shot. The contrast between the households, both claustrophobic and overbearing in their own way, is beautifully done. Household items, such as lights, cutting boards and raw meat and walkie talkies, aren’t just items used by the characters. They are inventive pacing devices.
The script, though primarily told from the point of view of the poor family, does not take sides. It reveals ways in which class structures threaten each family. These families are flawed but also have positive qualities, and every individual character is unique and compelling.
We have nearly reached the end of this review already. Why? Because there is a lot to say about Parasite, but very little that can be said in a spoiler free review. This is a case where I may have to write an in-depth, spoiler filled analysis in a few weeks or months. What I can say is this is the movie of 2019. I’ve only seen it once, and I’m already convinced it is one of the best of the decade.