Director: Bong Joon-ho
Screenwriter: Bong Joon-ho, Han Jin-won
Starring: Song Kang-ho, Lee Sun-kyun, Cho Yeo-jeong, Choi Woo-shik, Park So-dam
In The Guardian’s live Cannes coverage, Gwilym Mumford wondered “whether [Parasite]’s genre elements might hold it back” in the competition for the Palme d’Or. It went on to win the award unanimously, as 2019 judge Alejandro Inarritu (Birdman) said, on the merit of its cinema. Two years ago, the Academy Awards nominated Get Out for Best Picture, and thus it seems that genre is no longer a weight holding down otherwise excellent films.
Parasite is a dark comedy/thriller that follows an unemployed family as they move into the employ of a wealthy family. It never sticks too closely to one genre, and there’s a broad range of feelings that make the film feel real instead of the work of any particular genre. There’s incredible nuance to each of the characters, which is the best part of this awesome film.
Design choices are used to build the characters beyond their dialogue and action. Everyone involved has something hanging on their wall that tells you something about them, such as a self-portrait drawn by a child. The difference between the dwellings for each family best creates a contrast between them, and those locations are vital to the social story that lies at the heart of Parasite.
The pacing of the film wasn’t ideal, but whether that has to do with a Kishotenketsu (four act) structure or the editing and scene choices is hard to tell. The film moves briskly until it stays in an entertaining but comparatively lengthy sequence, and the scenes that follow are closer to the pacing of the beginning. That’s the sort of nitpicky, subjective critique that affects the judging of films at the top come awards season, but a first viewing could be improved by knowing ahead of time that the flow changes.
There will surely be more awards to come for Parasite, though no one can say it’s a shoe-in for anything. No matter what happens come awards time, Parasite is a fascinating and enjoyable film. If it’s showing near you, it is definitely worth checking out, not least because of its universal commentary, fantastic writing and phenomenal filmmaking.