Film review ‘PARASITE’ by Nick Gardener from ‘Built For Speed’

In 2006, Korean director Bong Joon-Ho gained rapturous notices for his inventive monster movie The Host. At the time, I felt that reviews were heaping too much praise on it because it was non-Hollywood genre movie (see also British zombie films) but it still it revealed a skilled and stylish filmmaker who was able to deftly walk the tightrope between horror and comedy. His latest film, the critically lauded Parasite, employs a similar approach to a different subject but reveals a more assured and technically sophisticated director at the helm.

Some may have gained the impression that Parasite is a horror film but it’s more a dark satire with some thriller elements. The film centres on a family of scam artists comprising a middle-aged couple and their teenage son and daughter who live below the poverty line in what looks like someone’s basement; a setting that has resonances for other events in the film. With cold and calculating precision they manage to inveigle themselves into the lives of the wealthy young Park family and in the process steal the jobs from the Park household staff. Their nefarious scheme seems a roaring success until a strange and dark turn of events threatens to derail their plan.

Juxtaposing the confined and cluttered homes of the poor with the spacious modern angular rooms the wealthy Park family inhabits, the film provides a potent commentary on wealth inequality in contemporary Korea. Also, as it infuses these domestic settings with some slightly surreal and shocking elements, the film is like a companion piece to Jordan Peele’s creepy Us. Like that film, however, Parasite is at times slow-moving, particularly in its first half. While these scenes are essential in constructing the scenario they can be uneventful and some viewers may find their attention drifting.

An unusual story such as this requires strong performances to anchor it otherwise it would be in danger of indulgent quirkiness. Fortunately, this film contains some wonderful performances particularly from Choi Woo-shik as the sly and manipulative teenage son Ki-woo and Park So-Dam as his cynical, contemptuous sister Kim Ki-jung and Jo Yeo-jeong as the desperately socially conscious and neurotic mother Mrs Park.

Impressive but not revelatory this film – like last year’s Roma – May leave some viewers a little bemused by the hype surrounding it. Still, as with that film, no one will be left doubting Bong Joon-Ho’s remarkable eye and unusual talents as a director.

Nick’s rating: ***1/2

Genre: Thriller/ drama/ satire.

Classification: MA15+.

Director(s): Bong Joon Ho.

Release date: 27th June 2019.

Running time: 132 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast.


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