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Parasite (2019) | Film Review

February 5, 2020

 

Parasite (2019) is a South Korean black comedy horror film written by Bong Joon-Ho and Han Jin-Won and directed by Bong Joon-Ho.  The film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on May 21, 2019 and was released in South Korea on May 31, 2019.  

 

When I first saw the trailer for this film, I was excited to see it.  It was immediately apparent to me that not only was it my type of humor, but it was also the kind of film that goes off the rails and would keep you guessing until the end.  Wouldn't you know it?  I was right.  

 

Film Overview

 

In the beginning of the film, we meet the Kim family.  The Kim family consists of a mother (Chung-Sook) and father (Ki-Taek) and their two adult children, a son (Ki-Woo) and a daughter (Ki-Jeong).  We learn that the Kim family lives in a semi-basement, which is a basement with a partial view of the street.  The Kim family is very close, yet they are very poor and cannot find work that pays well even though they are intelligent and willing to work hard.  To make ends meet, they fold pizza boxes for a local pizzeria, which doesn't pay much.  

 

One day, Ki-Woo's friend Min-Hyuk visits and the two go out to a local store and drink together.  As Ki-Woo laments his family's misfortune, Min-Hyuk describes to Ki-Woo his current side job of tutoring a high school student named Da-Hye.  Min-Hyuk tells Ki-Woo that he has to go abroad for school and he does not want anyone else to tutor Da-Hye because he is in love with her.  As he trusts Ki-Woo implicitly, he suggests that Ki-Woo tutor Da-Hye in English.  Ki-Woo objects because he is not a current college student, Min-Hyuk suggests that Ki-Woo forge documents that would suggest he is in school.  Min-Hyuk tells Ki-Woo that he will suggest to Da-Hye's family (the Park family) that Ki-Woo tutor Da-Hye and his referral should be good enough along with any documents Ki-Woo can come up with to support his college student story.

 

Ki-Woo tells his family of the plan and Ki-Woo and his sister set to work forging documents.  Once Ki-Woo has the documents, he sets off to meet the Park family for an interview.  

 

 

After Ki-Woo interviews with the Park family, he is offered the tutoring job.  Ki-Woo notices that the Park family employ a housekeeper and a driver, and also notices that the Park family's son, Da-Song is an eccentric child who is obsessed with American Indians and loves to draw.  He suggests to Da-Song's mother, Yeon-Gyo, that he knows a girl who can teach art to her son.  (Ki-Woo is actually suggesting that his sister Ki-Jeong for the job, but pretends he doesn't know the girl and that her name is Jessica.)  

 

It isn't long before each member of the Kim family is employed at the Park residence under the guise of being unknown to each other, yet are experts in each of their fields of work.  Chung-Sook is now the Park family's housekeeper and Ki-Taek is now the Park family's driver.  

 

Although the Kim family lied and schemed to get their new jobs, I found that I was happy that they were finally employed and making good money.  

 

 

 

Discussion

 

* Discussion contains spoilers

 

The Park Family

 

When we initially meet the Park family via the Kim family, it appears that the Park family is the ideal family and they have everything: bright children, a successful business, and a loving, caring mother.  They have a large home with a large, spacious, private yard, a safe environment and lots of food to choose from.  They have enough money that they are able to employ a tutor, a housekeeper, and a driver, which makes the Kim family envy their lives, especially when compared to their own.  

 

However, as we get to know the Park family through their interactions with the Kim family, we begin to see that they are not as perfect as they seem.  As Ki-Taek drives Mr. Park around, he learns that Mr. Park does not seem to really love his wife.  As we see Mr. Park interact with his family, he, in fact, doesn't seem to care to interact with his family at all.  I got the impression that Mr. Park was more preoccupied with how his family looked and were perceived rather than with how close he was with his family and how they were doing.  

 

In fact, it seemed to me as if none of the Park family members really knew what it was to be loved and close to their family, which was in stark contrast to how loving and close the Kim family was.  

 

As the film goes on, we also learn that Mr. and Mrs. Park are extremely judgmental and prejudiced against people who have less than they do.  At one point Mr. and Mrs. Park have a discussion about the way Ki-Taek smells and speak about his scent with great disdain.  It was a difficult scene to watch because I could see how much it hurt the Kim family to overhear this discussion and it made me disgusted with Mr. and Mrs. Park.  It gave me the distinct impression that they were thoughtless, elitist, and without an ounce of empathy towards others.  

 

As the film progressed, I liked Mr. and Mrs. Park less and less and wasn't really upset by their fate at the end of the film.

 

The Kim Family

 

In the beginning of the film, we meet the Kim family and I immediately liked each member of the family.  They were very close and would help each other out readily.  There was a warmth within their family that demonstrated love, empathy, helpfulness, and they got along easily, despite their difficult circumstances.  

 

In contrast to the Park family, the Kim family ate meals together and had discussions as a family.  Mr. and Mrs. Kim asked their children what they'd like to do with their lives and gave them freedom to decide.  The Kim's encouraged their children and praised their children's strengths, while Mr. and Mrs. Park told their children what to do and expected them to hold to certain standards without even trying to get to know their children as people separate from themselves.  

 

The Kim family wasn't perfect by any means, as they lied to get their jobs and worked together to get people employed by the Park family fired so they could take their places, but even while carrying out these plans, you could still see the stark differences between them and the Park family.  The Kim family stuck together and helped each other through everything they encountered.  It seems that the lack of money helped them to become closer because they relied on each other.  The lack of money created not only an emotional closeness, it also created a physical closeness because their apartment was small.  In contrast, the Park family's money created an environment where they had so much space that no one spent any time together and as a result, were a family of strangers.  

 

 

 

Moon-Gwang

 

In the beginning of the film, when Ki-Woo first begins to tutor Da-Hye, we learn that the Park family has a long-time housekeeper named Moon-Gwang.  Moon-Gwang was employed before the Park family moved in by the architect who built the house.  The Park family decided to hire her as she was a great housekeeper..

 

After the Kim family works together to get her fired so Mrs. Kim can take her place, Moon-Gwang visits the house while the Park family is away on a camping trip in order to get something out of the basement.  Mrs. Kim allows Moon-Gwang inside and follows her downstairs to see what she is up to.  Moon-Gwang opens a secret door in the basement and Mrs. Kim follows her to discover there is a secret bunker built underneath the house, unknown to the Park family.  

 

It is revealed that Moon-Gwang's husband, Geun-Sae, has been living in the bunker for years after he lost all of his money and getting loans from loan sharks that he could not pay back.

 

 

 

Parasite Theme

 

The term "parasite" has several different meanings in this film. 

 

In one way, the Park family are parasites because they rely on the help of others to manage their lives and their children's education.  They aren't really grateful for the help of others, they just view people who have less money than them as people who can perform a service, but who aren't anything beyond that.  They cannot or will not perform the duties themselves, yet are not appreciative towards those who can.  In fact, they demean and cut down anyone they deem less than themselves.  What is ironic is that they view the people who they deem less than them as reliant on them, yet they cannot do simple tasks for themselves, such as driving, cleaning, cooking, and teaching their children.  

 

The Kim family are also parasites because they tricked the Park family into hiring them under false pretenses and are so afraid to be without money that they lie, sneak around, and even make plans to kill to keep their jobs intact.  As the film progresses, they begin to believe that they deserve the house the Park family lives in more than the Park family, even though they did not do all the work Mr. Park did to be able to buy the house.  They do not respect the Park family, as the Park family does not respect any of them, yet are reliant upon the Park family to try to make better lives for themselves.  


Lastly, Moon-Gwang and her husband, Geun-Sae are parasites because they rely on the Park family for money, food, safety, and shelter.  Although they are the most obvious parasites, I found them to be the least objectionable parasites because they weren't really doing much that affected the Park family.  While I don't agree with them living in a house that isn't theirs, taking food from the family and hiding in the house, I felt sorry for them because they probably would have been killed if the loan sharks found them.  

 

That Ending

 

After Mrs. Kim discovers Geun-Sae in the basement, Moon-Gwang discovers that all the new employees for the Park family are actually all members of the Kim family and threatens to tell the Park family.  The Kim family is understandably scared of losing their jobs, so they attack Moon-Gwang and her husband and leave them tied up in the bunker.  After the Park family comes home early from their camping trip, Moon-Gwang almost escapes the bunker and Mrs. Kim pushes her with her foot quickly to get her down the stairs.  Moon-Gwang, unable to stop herself from falling, falls and slams her head against a concrete wall.  Mr. Kim takes Moon-Gwang to the bunker, where Geun-Sae has been duct-taped to a pipe.  Geun-Sae watches helplessly as Moon-Gwang dies from her injuries.  

 

Mrs. Park has the entire Kim family show up to work and attend a birthday party for her son and while her guests arrive and are talking on the lawn, Geun-Sae escapes the bunker and attacks Ki-Woo, who was there to kill Geun-Sae because he did not want Mr. Kim, his father, to bear that burden. 

 

After Geun-Sae hits Ki-Woo with a rock, he escapes the bunker and grabs a knife.  He goes outside and stabs Ki-Jeong with a knife, killing her.  The entire scene is absolute chaos and we see Mr. Kim with Mr. Park.  Mr. Park continues to treat Mr. Kim as if he is less of a person than him and we see on Mr. Kim's face that he has had enough.  During the chaos, Mr. Kim understands that Mr. Park does not care for him and does not empathize with his concern for his daughter's life and snaps.  He takes the knife and stabs Mr. Park, killing him.  Amidst the chaos, Mr. Kim slips away undetected.

 

We later learn that Ki-Woo survived the attack and he lives with his mother, while Mr. Kim is missing.  We learn that Mr. Kim went to the bunker and has been living there since the events of the day of the birthday party.  Ki-Woo learns that his father is living in the house and makes plans to earn enough money to buy the house and his father's freedom.

 

 

My Thoughts

 

Despite the dark events that happened towards the end of the film, this film is very funny.  I would classify it as more comedy than horror/thriller, but it's not as funny at the end of the film.  I loved how great the acting was and how the relationships between each of the families was portrayed.  You really feel the closeness as well as the distance between each of the characters in the film.  This is one of my favorite films and I recommend it.  Just beware that it does have subtitles.  I think the subtitles are fine to read- they are on screen long enough and they don't take away from viewing the movie in any way.  

 

Final Thoughts

 

Have you seen this film?  Do you plan on seeing this film?  What did you think of it?  Please share your thoughts below!

 

Thanks,

A

 

 

 

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