REVIEW: ‘Parasite’ is a twisted, terrific film

“Parasite” is a heartwarming story about a close-knit family of four, who just happen to start a con on another family.

A South Korean film, “Parasite” follows the story of a family including the father Kim Ki-Taek (Song Kang-ho), wife Kim Chung-sook (Chang Hyae-jin), their son Kim Ki-woo (Choi Woo-shik) and daughter Kim Ki-jeong (Park So-dam). The family lives in a small, below ground level apartment and get by with low paying jobs.

Through a reference by one of his friends, though, Kim Ki-woo stumbles upon a tutoring job for a very wealthy family. Relying on quick thinking and street smarts, Kim Ki-woo ends up forcing out other staff who work for the wealthy family, the Parks, and gets jobs for his three other family members. Their con work gets off to a good start and the family becomes more comfortable, but as the movie wears on, a shocking discovery is made.

A dark comedy, a family drama, a commentary on wealth classes and a a suspenseful thriller. “Parasite” dips into these genres and exceeds at all of them, with the result being a rich cinematic experience.

The overarching theme of the movie has to do with class, and it’s portrayed both figuratively, in how the characters behave, and literally, with the Parks living on a hill and the Kims living in a lower level of the city, in practically a basement. The messaging here is apparent, but never feels over-the-top or like it’s being shoved in a person’s face.

Part of what makes “Parasite” work so well in its presentation of commentary is how clever, humorous and deep it is. Writer Bong Joon Ho, who also directed the picture, did great work crafting a sharp screenplay that can both make an audience laugh and put them on the edge of their seat.

Courtesy Neon and CJ Entertainment

This is especially true in the second half of the feature when a major secret is revealed. Helping the director and writer of the movie create these atmospheres for “Parasite” was the movie’s cinematographer Hong Kyung-Pyo and the production design team.

The two homes the film largely takes place in are on opposite sides of the spectrum in terms of quality. The apartment appears to be old and run down, not to mention cramped as a small space. The Park’s home, meanwhile, is spacious, bright and vibrant. The visual aids are apparent and drive the film’s point home.

Additionally, Hong Gyeong-Pyo’s work during some of the film’s more chaotic moments is fantastic. There are some wonderful long takes here, where the camera takes an audience on one continuous shot, and it just adds to the tension.

The lead characters on screen are fascinating to follow, from their cunning moments of trickery to when their situation starts unraveling and they are thrown into a scramble over how to get things back in order. Part of what makes the characters work so well are some phenomenal performances by an impressive cast. So-dam Park was as Ki-Jeong especially good.

“Parasite” does fall a bit short, mainly because of a development in the third act based on a character decision that didn’t really make much sense. That’s not to say it spoils the ending, but it was a weaker aspect of the picture.

Overall, though, “Parasite” is a great picture that can make a viewer laugh thanks to the humor or grip their armrest from the suspense. 4.75 out of 5.


Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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