Parasite is the first non-English language film to win the Best Picture award at the Oscars in the history of the award. That was the driving factor behind me seeing this film in the cinema, and I expect I’m far from alone in that fact.
So straight to the crux of the matter: Does it deserve the Oscar?
Short answer: Yes.
Medium answer: I haven’t seen most of the films it was competing against, but it certainly felt like an Oscar-worthy film.
Long answer: …
Parasite is a human driven story centred around a family struggling to survive doing jobs which appear to be below their capabilities. When the son of the family gets handed a well-paid job as a private tutor for a rich family, he quickly spots opportunities to hire the rest of his family as workers for the same rich family. Parasite takes it’s time to establish both families and comfortably move the audience through the relationships both between the families and internally. Despite a good half of the film effectively being “setup”, it still feels well-paced and does a great job keeping the audience engaged; the story undergoes several minor twists before delivering the major twist which drives the second half of the film. Though the timing of the major twist is somewhat expected it’s still delivered in a way which leaves you guessing exactly what it will be, and successfully heightens the stakes the characters are experiencing without losing the human driven aspect which has kept the audience emotionally invested in the plot.
The plot, while extreme, is incredibly believable and is only cemented by the excellent acting on display. Despite the language barrier, the full emotional range of the characters is still fully realised by the actors (and thus the audience). Even the subdued moments still express the conflicting emotional interests of the characters in a very clear way, all credit to the actors and actresses. On the language barrier, I had to see the film with subtitles on, and whilst it took about half an hour for me to get used to reading a film, I soon stopped noticing that I was reading and watching simultaneously. It wasn’t until I left the theatre that I realised I hadn’t noticed this switch in how easily I was watching the film. I did notice (perhaps in retrospect) that lengthy dialogue pieces were taking longer to be spoken in Korean than it took to read the English translation, which give me plenty of time to read the context and still take in the visuals. I don’t know if this was a clever decision by the director or a work of genius by the translators, but either way it massively improves the accessibility of the film and has heightened my appreciation of it. Plus, as far as I can tell, nothing significant was lost in translation and the dialogue and plot still made perfect sense.
There is probably quite a lot of clever commentary on socio-economic issues, class identity, and perhaps political commentary too, but you can mostly ignore this and still thoroughly enjoy the film. You do have to buy into this commentary a little bit to understand the position of the characters and the rational behind some of their decisions, but you don’t need to understand all the underlying meanings of Parasite to still fully appreciate it as a film. As someone who prefers straightforward escapism films and tries to steer clear of heavy societal commentary stuff, I still thoroughly enjoyed Parasite and felt I got the full benefit of understanding characters motivations without needing to read deeply into any message(s) behind the film.
A few things to touch on before I wrap up; I didn’t notice the cinematography a lot of the time, but I take this to be a good thing on the whole. There were a few well crafted shots/scenes which were worth noting, but mostly the film was framed in a way that you didn’t need to think about it too much. This also goes for audio queues, I can’t remember any significant uses of audio, but I also don’t remember losing focus due to the audio, so I have to assume it was appropriate and mostly a good thing that I didn’t notice it. I haven’t thought of any plot-holes yet, and have had a few foreshadowing hints in the script pointed out to me, and I love a bit of foreshadowing that I didn’t spot until after it has been realised (or after the film completely in at least one case here). The script felt really tight, all the characters were relatable in their own way and had little mannerisms in how they spoke (or at least how it was translated), and this also crept into their physical mannerisms and expressions; so again, hats off to the writers and actors.
In closing, I would absolutely recommend this film to anyone interested in cinema, or just about any aspect of it. I can’t think of any element of this film which was done averagely, let alone badly. Even if you’re just curious to see what an Oscar-worth film looks like, you could do far worse than Parasite. The only people I wouldn’t recommend this to are people who aren’t interested in any of the wider elements of cinema and just want to see the good guys beat the bad guys. That will be for my next review…
- Cinematography – 8/10
- Plot – 10/10
- Acting – 9/10
- Script – 10/10
- Enjoyment* – 10/10
OVERALL – 9.4/10
*Enjoyment is a personal measure of how much I enjoyed the film, more of a “gut feeling” than the empirical approach I try to take with the other ratings.