REVIEW: Bong Joon Ho’s PARASITE is a compelling thriller that focuses on class division


One of the year’s best films, Parasite evades easy pigeonholing into one genre and remains enthralling from start to finish.

The issue of the haves versus the have nots is a theme that rears its head quite often when looking at Bong Joon Ho’s oeuvre. From Okja to Snowpiercer, Ho’s films have explored the themes of a lower working class proletariat that works for an out-of-touch bourgeoisie that views the worker’s contributions to their society as something analogous to cogs; providing for the rich is their only reason for being. Parasite continues the exploration of that theme in his films and subverts it by showing the audience a scenario where the working class slowly takes hold of an upper-class home. But Boon then asks us, in a world where everyone has made themselves indispensable to the needs of another, who is really free?

Parasite follows a lower working-class family in South Korea. When we first meet them, they are scrambling and scampering around a crowded and cramped basement apartment looking for a wi-fi signal to steal. Here, we meet Kim Ki-taek (Song Kang-ho) an unemployed driver, his wife Chung-sook (Jang Hye-jin), son Ki-woo (Choi Woo-shik) and daughter Ki-jeong (Park So-dam). The family are grifters of a sort; skilled in making the most of bad situations and able to survive by scavenging; be it free wi-fi to a few dollars by folding pizza boxes. Wgen Ki-Woo’s friend Min goes off to college, he encourages Ki-Woo to take his old job, that of an English tutor to the Park Family for their daughter Da-hye. Min tells them the family is big on recommendations and will take on Ki-Woo at Min’s word. Once, Ki-Woo has insinuated himself in their household, he is able to get his sister Ki-jeong a job as an art teacher for their son Da-Song, and before too long the two manages to ensconce their entire family into the Parks’ employ, seemingly having figured out how to manipulate the family and their lives to fit their needs. But as this beneficial existence moves forward, a shocking event transpires that shakes their expectations and that of the audience to their core.

The less you know going into Parasite, the more enjoyable the film is. It moves effortlessly from being a comedic exploration of grifting, to a dark comedy, to a mode that shifts from a dark drama to outright horror at times. That being said, the film’s thematic and tonal shifts are organic to the story being told and serve as an example of the compelling story that Joon-Ho is weaving here in Parasite. The performances are captivating, with Song Kang-ho being a standout as well as Park So-dam as his daughter. That being said, the twists and turns the film serves are raw and powerful and the payoff is well worth the investment. From start to finish, the film holds you and doesn’t let go.

Parasite is one of, if not, the year’s best film. It’s exciting to see the creative behind films like The Host and Snowpiercer is only becoming a better and more engaging filmmaker and I look forward to seeing what more we’ll see from him in the years to come. Joon-ho does an excellent job of exploring the relationships between the wealthy and those who work for them and who is really indebted to whom in that relationship and the power dynamic within. It’s both eye-opening and frighteningly familiar how those dynamics show up in other facets of our lives with employers and in relationships and Parasite captures it all.