Parasite is a Korean movie directed by Bong Joon Ho. It was first released at the Toronto International Film Festival this past September and was the first Korean movie to win the prestigious Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year. It has a 99 per cent rating on Rotten Tomatoes; critics and film lovers alike have raved about it.
I didn’t like it.
In Parasite, the focus is on family. We’re introduced to the Kim family, who are extremely poor. They live in a semi-basement in a secluded alleyway. In Korea, semi-basements are one of the cheapest forms of living; rent can be less than $300 per month. They are barely surviving; their main source of income comes from folding pizza boxes.
The son, Ki Woo (Choi Woo Shik), has a friend, Min Hyuk (Park Seo Joon), who tutors a rich high school female student. Min Hyuk is leaving to study abroad and tells Ki Woo to be the tutor in his place. He’s not doing it out of love or pity; he wants to marry the student when he comes back because she’s rich. Min Hyuk refers Ki Woo to the ultra-rich Park family, and he starts working there. Slowly, Ki Woo’s scamming personality comes out, and he tries to replace the old workers of the household with his family members.
For a film that is about familial relationships and the reality of poverty, it did not feel authentic to me. I felt as if the director tried to hand me the emotions by making me feel sympathetic for the poor in the film.
In the beginning, I could generate some sympathy for the Kims. They couldn’t find jobs that would sustain them, they lived locked up in the semi-basement, and they could barely afford food.
As the movie went on, my sympathy turned into feelings of betrayal as the characters revealed themselves to be less than truthful. The Kims are not a family of hard workers trying to make their lives better; they’re a family of scammers who will do anything to get what they want. Yet, I didn’t feel sorry for the family they’re scamming either, the Parks. They are also frauds who pretend to be caring and affectionate.
By the end of the film, I detested all of the characters. Initially, I liked the mother in the Park family. Although she was a bit ditzy and lost, I figured she had her family’s best interests at heart.
That was not the case.
In fact, the little inferences within the film will throw you off so much, you’ll end up shielding your eyes at many scenes from sheer shock. The twists are unexpected and chilling.
So, if you’re going to watch Parasite, be careful. The characters’ initial appearances mean nothing in terms of their later character development. The film tells a story about how fraud can be manifested in many forms—in love, money, and ultimately greed.
In my opinion, I found the Joker better at explaining how society acts towards people they see as weak or poor, and the consequences behind the actions of bullies. However, Parasite is cinematographic perfection, and fleshes out its characters in a twisted, yet humane way.
I would recommend watching Parasite because it is a great film with unexpected twists and commentary on social issues, but it did not resonate with me on a personal level.