When South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival it didn’t surprise those who were dazzled by his post-apocalyptic “Snowpiercer” (2013) and fantastical “Okja” (2017).
His newest venture explores the dynamics between two families at opposite ends of the economic spectrum in Seoul, combining crime drama, black comedy and dark social satire as their disparate worlds collide.
Despite living in a cramped, subterranean apartment, Ki-woo Kim (Choi Woo Shik), the amiable son of impoverished parents, lands a lucrative job tutoring Da-hye (Jung Ziso), the teenage daughter of wealthy tech executive Park Dong-ik (Lee Sun Kyun) and his gullible wife, Yeon-kyo (Cho Yeo Jeong).
Having secured that position using counterfeit credentials, he paves the way for the rest of the destitute Kim family to scam and insinuate themselves into domestic positions at the bourgeois Parks’ opulent, multi-level home that’s an architectural showcase.
Ki-woo’s older sister, Ki-jung (Park Sodam), is hired as an art therapist, working with Da-hye’s disturbed younger brother, Da-song (Jung Hyunjun), who is besotted with Native Americana. His father, Ki-taek (Song Kang Ho), becomes the Parks’ chauffeur, while his mother, Chung-sook (Jang Hyejin), usurps the chores of the Parks’ longtime housekeeper (Lee Jung Eun).
Of course, the pampered, unsuspecting Parks have no idea that these new ‘employees’ are related to one another. And – from there – it gets even more complicated.
FYI: In 2015, the top 10% of South Koreans held 66% of the nation’s wealth. That inequality, along with corruption scandals, prejudice and lack of social mobility, has engendered frustration and bitterness.
Scripting with Han Jin Won, director Boon Joon-ho reveals social awareness, sly humor and dry wit as he delves into the complex chasm between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots,’ unearthing class contempt and buried secrets. And until the very last frame, you’re never sure exactly where he’s going.
In Korean with English subtitles, on the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Parasite” is a suspenseful, acidic 9, a timely thriller that’s perhaps one of the best movies of the year.