It’s not very often a film comes along that I can find virtually no flaws in. A story so singular and organic as this is a rarity in today’s filmmaking world. The themes present have never before been dealt with such tact, even in such a crowded year of releases. At the end of this decade, I begin thinking of what recent films most inspired me or left me in awe. “Parasite” is the film of the year. It may be the the film of the decade. This is masterful filmmaking. If you see one film this year that could possibly re-energize the movie-going experience, this is the one to see.
When I arrived early at the Alamo Drafthouse to watch “Parasite,” there was a feature on director Bong Joon-ho playing. It showcased his use of camera angles, editing, and other cinematography tricks to his full advantage. It ended with describing the director as a master of genre. Walking in to “Parasite,” I expected a full-on thriller. What I got was an equal mix of suspense, drama, and comedy, each as masterfully handled as the other. In fact, the humorous parts of “Parasite” may stay with me the longest. The twist mid-way through has sparked more discussion, and rightfully so, as it is the most unexpected plot point in a film that I have seen in many years. It is so surprising, yet feels totally natural. It actually enhances the dichotomy that the film is exploring, and provides an additional emotional layer that elevates the film to rare heights.
“Parasite” features one of the best ensembles that I have seen in any film. Too often in such productions are the supporting cast members pushed into the background, with the result being one or two standout performances in a mix of stellar actors that hardly get their due. I generally feel robbed in ensemble pictures because my favorite of the bunch gets demoted to minimal screen time. Bong Joon-ho gives each of his actors equal opportunity, and each one delivers. They’re all scene-stealers.
“Parasite” has some of the best visuals I’ve seen in any film. While the dialogue is witty and engaging, much of the storytelling is told through visual means. The contrasting settings that the two families live in give us more information into their differences than dialogue ever could. There is a scene in which a rainstorm is ravaging the Kims’ neighborhood, causing intense flooding and sewage leaks. Meanwhile, the Parks watch the raindrops hit their perfectly trimmed lawn from the comfort of their living room. What is tragic to one is beautiful to the other. Like one character says, “It’s so metaphorical!” Each scene, each prop, every movement has a purpose. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Park’s home becomes one of the most iconic sets in film history.
If you’re really paying attention, you can catch on to all of the connective tissue that seems to be growing organically as the film progresses. I was totally hooked for the whole run-time, and latched onto each visual clue and subtlety for the entire two hours. I haven’t been so invested in characters or their motives in many years. The most interesting thing at play is how neither family takes on the role of protagonist or antagonist. They both bring about mixed feelings, and that lack of rectitude is pure genius on the part of Bong Joon-ho.
If you’ve seen any sort of marketing for the film, you’ve likely been left wondering what on earth it is about. On first glance it gives the impression of a virus-induced apocalyptic thriller. Then once you watch the trailer, you think it could be perhaps an experimental suspense film. Perhaps someone from one family kills a member from the other family, and they go to war against each other. Whatever you may think will happen in “Parasite,” you’ll be proven wrong. Its ambiguity will draw you in, and its powerful intellect will stay with you as you walk out. The expression behind and in front of the camera is intoxicating. I love films like this.