A Masterclass In Tone & Style
I’ve watched thousands of films in my life. One of the joys with being a reviewer is being exposed to so much content – both good and bad – and constantly finding titles that stand out for either the right or wrong reason. Out of the many films I’ve had the pleasure of watching, I can count on my fingers the number I’d confidently give a perfect score to. Parasite, on the surface, feels like a very simple thriller asking some complicated questions about hierarchy and class. As the film progresses however, this Korean picture not only subverts expectation, it does so with such artistic flair and grace that it effortlessly combines and blends numerous tones and genres together in stunning fashion.
I won’t spoil too much of the plot but the main story revolves around two very different families. Ki-Taek and his family live in the basement, barely able to survive and ekeing out a living folding pizza boxes for scraps. By contrast, Mr Park lives a dream life, boasting a magnificent house, a trophy wife and two talented children. When both of these families find their fates intertwined, what follows is a journey across different film genres, beginning as a drama, then moving into comedy territory with sprinklings of romance, right the way through to dabbling in thriller and horror. All of this is achieved effortlessly across the film’s 130 minute run-time.
Going into Parasite I was admittedly sceptical over the lavish praise heaped on this film. After watching this one, even with a critical lens from the beginning, I now understand just why this picture was so highly regarded. Beyond the surface-level plot is an entire subtext of social themes screaming out through every deliberately composed scene. From the numerous instances of verticality used to show the different class structure at work, through to the use of classical music throughout some of the more intense segments, Parasite knows exactly what it’s doing and it does so with such class that it makes this film so much more enjoyable and meaningful.
The characters themselves all have fleshed out arcs too and although Ki-Woo, Ki-Taek’s son, is arguably the protagonist for much of the film’s run-time, there’s a good balance of character between both families that help sell the ideas being presented here. The subversion of expectations plays a huge part too and around the halfway point of the film, Parasite guides you down a seemingly familiar path before pushing you down darkened stairs and slamming your head into a completely different genre. It’s masterfully crafted and this careful balance of plot and character is partly why the film works as well as it does.
I could sit here all night talking about the themes of class cropping up in every conversation and idea of the film but to be honest, the visuals and sharp editing speak for themselves. The film’s climax does a wonderful job in building up to the crescendo of the drama and with it, more thought provoking questions are raised around the working rat race and society’s desire for us all to fit in and keep quiet. All of this combines to make for a film that can easily be enjoyed as a stand-alone thriller but also as a deliciously meaty piece of art worth dissecting and examining too.
Parasite is quite simply the best film of 2019 and one of the finer examples of mainstream cinema not being completely devoid of creativity. This is a film that takes you on an emotional journey and whether it be holding your breath during a tense segment or laughing along with the comedy early on, Parasite is a masterclass in tone and style, and a film I’m not going to forget in a hurry. An absolute must-watch, if you haven’t seen Parasite already, do yourself a favour and watch it.