It’s unusual for best picture releases to arrive at the cinema just two days ahead of the Oscars, but this is the case for Parasite, Bong Joon-ho’s thrilling tragicomedy. Already the winner of the Palme d’Or – the most prestigious award at Cannes Film Festival – Parasite is also up for best picture at the Oscars – alongside the likes of 1917, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, Joker and The Irishman – plus five other awards. At last week’s Baftas, the team went home with best screenplay and best film not in the English language. To say its UK release this weekend is highly anticipated is something of an understatement.
Like many of Joon-ho’s previous films – think 2017 Netflix-only release Okja, plus South Korean blockbusters The Host and Snowpiercer – Parasite deals with class politics. At the centre of the plot is the Kim family. With both parents out of work and their children unable to afford a university education, the family limps between meagre meals, expired phone contracts and the occasional flicker of wi-fi from a neighbouring café. To make ends meet in their cockroach-infested semi-basement flat, the Kims spend their evenings assembling pizza boxes for a local takeaway, watching as drunks use their window as a makeshift toilet
Their fortunes shift when Kim Ki-woo’s (Choi Woo-sik) friend heads abroad to study, leaving vacant his job as a tutor for a wealthy Seoul family. A couple of forged documents later – it turns out his sister Ki-jung (Park So-dam) is extremely adept at art – and Ki-woo is installed in the Park household, teaching teenage daughter Park Da-hye (Jung Ziso) English.
Before long, the Kims hatch a plan to dispatch each of the Park’s staff, filling the positions themselves. Soon, Ki-taek (Song Kang-ho), Ki-jung and Chung-sook (Jang Hye-jin) all have well-paid jobs as a chauffeur, art therapist and housekeeper respectively. The catch? None of the Park family know the foursome are related. And when the Parks go camping for son Da-song’s (Jung Hyeon-jun) birthday, the Kims swap their mouldering basement for the luxury confines of the Park’s glass-walled abode. But things don’t stay comfortable for long.