Reviews | Written by Daniel Goodwin 28/12/2019



After seven months of praise following its Palme D’Or win at Cannes, Bong Joon-ho’s enthralling near-masterpiece Parasite is finally released in UK cinemas. Co-written with Jim Won-Han, the Okja and Snowpiercer director’s latest soars as both a black comedy, family drama and post-modern Hitchcock hat-tip, yet is replete with themes which surreally reinforce its subtexts and story with social relevance.

The Seoul-set tale starts with a shot of wet socks drying but swiftly turns exciting after introducing the Kims: a struggling family who fold pizza boxes for a living in their foetid and cramped semi-basement apartment. The four quibble and bicker while stretching for free WiFi signals to connect to the outside world. Father Ki-taek (Song Kang-ho) schemes while mum Chung-sook (Hye-jin Yang) fends for daughter Ki-jung (Park So-dam) and son Ki-woo (Choi woo-sik). A latent end to the Kim’s hardship arises when a college friend of Ki-woo offers him a job teaching English to student Da-hye Park (Jung Ziso) in her affluent family’s home. Ki-woo takes the job, then starts creating employment opportunities for the rest of his family. One by one, while posing as unrelated people, the Kims are appointed positions in the Park home, led by avaricious husband/father Dong-ik (Sun-kyun Lee) and wife/mother Yeon-kyo (Yeo-jeong Jo).

On paper, Parasite’s set up reads like the kind of hackneyed Hollywood silage excreted into life on a studio conveyer belt, but is crafted with artistry via Bong Joon-ho’s striking pen and eye, then adorned further by Production Designer Lee Ha Jun, who constructed both the Park and Kim homes on spectacularly elaborate soundstages. A playful tone is established prior to the plot curtailing from high-concept comedy into a riveting thriller, by way of family drama punctuated with black comedy, and occasionally sharp violence which dallies into slapstick. After a seemingly predictable plot path is established, characters get duped, the comedy re-emerges darker and gears shift, twisting Parasite out of its commercial forage into a subversive Hitchcockian tale of secrets, subterfuge and ulterior motives.

Bolstered by proficient performances of pleasant characters, a slow (to start with) yet engrossing plot, tight (where needed) editing and exemplar direction, Parasite resounds as so much more than the genre mending potboiler it could have been if it had landed in the hands of a hack. The script’s not totally taut, but themes linking social statuses and class clashes are plaited to issues of nepotism and cronyism which fire a story that glides before rising via fascinating style shifts, all the while fudging tentpoles.

Plot/character twists and complex dynamics make Bong Joon-ho’s latest bud into a multifaceted masterwork that’s irrefutably matchless. At 2 hours and 12 minutes, it’s a smidge too long, but it’s predominantly exciting, striking, hilarious, and has a heart.

A possible paranormal presence is teased, while suspense and restrained horror also manifest via Audition and Psycho-style story turns. However, later act character arcs linked to these aren’t seeded enough to seem feasible. But the Kims’ heart and humour are elegantly fused with the sense of foreboding to shape an otherworldly, prescient and prevailing tale and style that’s totally timeless and indisputably Bong Joon-ho’s.