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Parasite: The Must-Watch Thriller about Family Solidarity and Class Inequality

There are many great things about Bong Joon Ho’s new thriller and satire movie, Parasite, but among the best is the way it balances its use of anticipation and immediately engages with its audience. 

The viewers are pulled to the edge of their seats by the seemingly “magical” way the poor Kim family infiltrates the rich Parks’ home, playing roles such as an English tutor, art therapist, housekeeper and chauffeur. All of the actors give wonderful performances, showing both the grim reality of the situation while also bringing comedic effect, while the soundtrack and camera work keeps the audience waiting for it to all fall apart.

Source: Static 01

The movie surrounds the story of the Kims, a South Korean family living in a small basement in a poor neighborhood. The family makes ends meet by folding pizza boxes until Ki-woo seems to strike gold with a job opportunity to pretend to be a well-qualified English tutor for the rich Park’s family’s daughter, Da-hye. With this elaborate plan, the Kim family is able to slowly integrate themselves into the Park family’s lives, until all of them have stable positions as an art therapist, chauffeur, and housekeeper. Everything seems to be going well until old housekeeper returns to reveal a secret in the basement, putting the entire scheme in danger.

The excellence of the movie arises from its ability to balance between reality and believability. The characters themselves are real; the audience can feel the Ki-woo’s frustration at being unable to connect to their neighbor’s Wi-Fi at the beginning of the film, and their pain and struggle is evident in the way they allow the extermination gas to drift into their home to kill the bugs and fight to keep their profits from folding pizza boxes. 

At the same time, the easy way that the Kims all take respectable positions seems almost unbelievable. There are no background checks or verifications of credentials and the Kim family seems to just talk their way into what they want to happen.

Source: Static 01

The father of the family, Ki-taek, emulates this boundary as well. As the chauffeur, he is expected to be obedient and follow all direction without, as Mr. Park notes, “crossing the line.” Ki-taek is able to follow the part perfectly; he asks the right questions, gives praise, and validates Mr. Park’s pride. 

But there’s one part of himself that still “crosses the line” even when he tries to perfect his persona: his “old radish” smell. This smell, which continues to linger on all of the Kim family, marks their low social status. They may try to arise in the economy and elevate their social standing, but others will still see them as they were. 

The movie shows that this is not their fault. The family itself is very resourceful and intelligent, as shown by the way Ki-jung is able to make exact replicas of diplomas and Ki-woo’s perfected way of wooing the Park’s daughter Da-hye. They rehearse their roles and scenes for hours in their home, emulating the perfect tone and predicting exact responses. Yet, this never seems like enough. 

This inability to break away from their current economic status persists until the end of the movie as well. After a tragic disaster at the end of the movie, Ki-woo returns to his house and contemplates a way to fix the situation. He notes that this is his grand plan, but the usage of the word makes it seem more like a dream. Up until this point, Ki-woo’s plans have ended up in disaster, and Ki-woo’s imagination of the dream adds back a stark reality. 

While it is hopeful in nature, it almost seems to mock the reality of the situation. In fact, Ki-woo is in the same situation at the end of the movie as he is in the beginning, showing that nothing has changed in the reality of his situation—not his economic position, and definitely not his dreams.

The beauty of Parasite is that it is both hopeful and grounds its viewers in reality. The family is able to hold themselves together through thick and thin and their determination in making their situation better is both admirable and heart-warming. But at the same time, the situation is grim.

In the end, the Kim family is unable to change their situation, but continues to dream about its possibility, leaving an ending that is simply bittersweet.


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Anvitha is a sophomore at BU studying Medical Science. In her free time, she enjoys writing and dancing.
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