‘Act like you own the place…’

This Korean family drama film won four Oscars, including the one for Best Picture, the Palme d’Or and two Baftas. It’s been described by various media outlets as ‘a masterpiece,’ ‘thrilling, mischievous, dazzling,’ ‘wickedly funny’ and ‘an international phenomenon.’

That’s a helluva lot of good press, isn’t it? I’m not really going to say anything negative about the film, other than that it’s ridiculously far-fetched at times, and we’re expected to suspend disbelief in a big way more than once. If you can live with that, and take the film at face value, then PARASITE is actually a hugely enjoyable watch.

Mr. Kim is the dad of a poor Korean family, two parents and a daughter and son. They live all squashed together in a tiny basement flat, and they scrape a meagre living out of folding cardboard pizza boxes into the shape in which they arrive at our homes. They steal their Wi-fi from the lady upstairs, so don’t feel too sorry for them! They all have street-smarts, and they know a good thing when they see it.

A particularly ‘good thing’ comes along in the shape of the Park Family. Nathan Park is a rich businessman, his wife is a rather empty-headed lady of leisure, and their two children are spoiled with toys and gadgets and an expensive education, but very little in the way of quality time with their parents who, like a lot of rich folks, have their priorities arse-about-face.

One day, somewhat out of the blue, Mr. Kim’s son, Ki Woo, is offered a job tutoring the teenage daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Park. He looks around their cold, half-empty palace of a house with the huge rooms, long corridors and the objets d’art all locked away in cabinets (for looking at, not touching), and he decides that his own family deserve a bit of this rich-people action…

What happens next is very funny, but quite sneaky and under-handed too. Ki Woo contrives things so that his older sister is employed by the Parks as an extremely expensive art therapist for their troubled young son, even though the sister has to google ‘art therapy’ before she arrives for her first lesson so she can appear knowledgeable on the subject…!

The two siblings then fix it so that their dad, Mr. Kim, who apparently smells like a boiled rag for some reason (don’t ask!), is hired by Nathan Park as his chauffeur, and Mr. Kim’s wife as the Park family cook and housekeeper.

Mr. Kim’s family don’t let on to the Parks that they are a family, so at the very least, they’ve taken on their various jobs under false pretences and are lying to their new employers. They do their respective jobs well, but I’m sure that Mr. and Mrs. Park won’t like being kept in the dark as to the true identity of their new staff.

And besides this deception, Mr. Kim and his family have contrived together to get the previous chauffeur and housekeeper sacked, so that they can take their jobs. They’ve really been quite ruthless and conniving about infiltrating the Park family, so, naturally, there will have to be consequences for their actions. These consequences are bloody, hilarious, extreme and genuinely startling, given that we see the film as just a bit of a black comedy at first.

But it’s not just the poor low-lifes who are at fault here. There’s fault on both sides in this case. Nathan Park is a cold, distant man, more interested in his work and the trappings of his material success than in his family. His marriage is not a strong one. The wife is obsessed with getting her children the best of everything, and seems to forget that, sometimes, all a child needs is his or her parents’ individual attention. Both the Park parents seem to have lost sight of this universal truth.

Nathan Park and his wife, while they’re not at all abusive or stingy with their cash, treat their staff as less than human beings. They are so spectacularly caught up in their own hollow lives (the huge birthday party for the son is a good example of this) that they fail utterly to see their staff as anything but automatons, just robots there to do their bidding, robots without feelings, sadnesses, triumphs, troubles and catastrophes of their own to contend with.

Therefore, there will have to be consequences on the Park side too, so that they can have the chance to change their selfish, self-absorbed ways and start to look at all other human beings as just that… other human beings, who have the same rights, hopes, dreams and aspirations as rich people; they just haven’t been blessed with the same material gifts as rich people.

This was one of the last films to be shown in the cinema before the Great Coronavirus Lockdown of 2020. It’s quite a long picture- a whopping two and a half hours long, and there isn’t even a war in it!- but, if you have an evening to spare and a bag of popcorn in the cupboard just begging to be eaten, I’d recommend PARASITE. It’s as good a see-how-the-other-half-lives movie as any you’ll watch this year.


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

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