A review of the Academy Award-winning film “Parasite”

I saw this South Korean work just hours before it won four Academy Awards making it the first non-English language film to win Best Picture in the 92 years of the Oscars. Impressive though “Parasite” is, I’m not sure that it’s quite that good. I would probably have made different choices for Best Picture (“Joker”), Best Director (Sam Mendes) and Best International Film (“Pain And Glory”), but I would certainly agree with the award for Best Original Screenplay.

Writer and director Bong Joon-ho has produced a startingly original and genre-mixing work that starts as an insightful and blistering social satire and then switches dramatically – a bit like the famous “Psycho” – into something much more macabre. There is humour, there is tension, sometimes at the same time. The dialogue is almost continuous so, unless you’re fluent in Korean, I suggest you sit near the screen. More than this, it’s hard to describe without revealing spoilers – which I never do. 

Set in Seoul, we meet two very different families: the four Kims, who are desparately poor but oddly unified, and the four Parks (plus their housekeeper), who are outrageously rich but deeply fractured. The two families become progressively more intersecting through a series of deceptions but, just when you think the scamming is complete, more revelations crash into the narrative, building to an unexpected finale. None of the characters totally attract our affection or our displeasure and the viewer can’t help caring in some way for all of them. 

Ultimately the work can be seen as not just a critique of class but of the capitalist system that obscenely divides and dehumanises us.


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