Besides Avengers: Endgame, no film this year has garnered more discussion and hype from critics and internet film communities than Parasite, directed by Bong Joon-ho, the acclaimed South Korean filmmaker.
Parasite currently sits at the number two spot on Letterboxd’s top 250 films of all time based on user ratings, despite only premiering in May at the Cannes Film Festival and just recently getting a limited release in North America.
This leads to the idea of the internet hype machine – how often should we let it dictate what kind of movies we see? Do we allow ourselves to be swept up in the countless tweets and YouTube reviews praising a film, or should we be more focused on what we as individuals want to see, rather than the masses?
While I mostly lean towards the latter option, I found myself intrigued with the amount of love that the internet was giving Parasite. Other than it being a critical darling, I knew almost nothing about it. Despite this, I decided that, for this time, I would allow myself to go see a movie solely based on the hype it was getting. Thankfully, I wasn’t disappointed in the slightest – the film deserves every ounce of praise it gets.
I don’t want to give away much about the plot, since doing so would be a disservice – it benefits the viewing experience to know as little as possible going in. The basic plot follows a poor South Korean family as they try to earn money through whatever small jobs they can get. The son of the family, Kim Ki-woo, learns about a new job opportunity through his friend… and that’s about all I’m willing to give away. Just know that the story will not go in whatever direction you’re expecting it to.
Now, after reading the basic description, you might be slightly intrigued, but also worried that the movie could turn out to be a two hour and twelve minute slog.
In reality, you couldn’t be further from the truth. Before seeing Parasite, you should take every pre-conceived notion you have about “foreign cinema,” wrap it up into a little ball, and toss it in the trash. One of the reasons the film works so well is because not only does it refuse to conform to a single genre (it straddles the line between comedy, thriller, and satire often), but it also refuses to conform to what you, the viewer, thinks it’ll be.
There’s this idea that foreign-language films are inherently more challenging viewing for some reason, but Bong Joon-ho has crafted a film that can appeal to both the casual viewer and to the cinephile. The cinematography is beautiful, the story is absorbing and intense, and it will keep a general audience hooked – but its central themes of love, family, and economic class give those wanting to dig deeper plenty to dissect. As Kim Ki-woo says throughout, “It’s so metaphorical!”
All of the acting throughout is phenomenal, too (even the child actors do well), but special praise deserves to go to the father of the family, Kim Ki-taek, played by Kang-ho Song. Having worked with Bong Joon-ho before in some of his other films, he fits into this story naturally and you can tell that he was picked for the role for a reason. His believability and line delivery make him deserving of some kind of award, to be perfectly honest – his performance is one of the very best of the year, alongside Adam Driver’s & Scarlett Johansson’s “Marriage Story” and Willem Dafoe’s “The Lighthouse.”
In short, watch this movie. I am, indeed, contributing to the hype on this one, but in this instance, every ounce of it should be believed. Hop aboard the hype train, even if you normally don’t allow yourself to, and be swept away by what is easily the best film of 2019 so far.