Ki-taek (Song Kang-ho) is long-term unemployed and festering at home. He makes a bit of money folding pizza boxes for a local restaurant, helped by his two teenaged kids and wife, but their living conditions are dire and the future looks decidedly bleak. Rough and uncouth this family might be, but when Ki-taek’s son, Ki-woo (Woo Shik Choi) lands a well-paid gig, fraudulently posing as a qualified English tutor to a high school girl from a posh family, things begin to look up.
Bong Joon-ho’s laser-sharp social satire, Parasite (2019), tackles social justice, aspirational types as victims of neoliberalism and class conflict, all with that trademark mix of humour and thrills, which has brought him international attention and acclaim.
Involving a desperate and impoverished family slowly ingratiating themselves to an upper-class businessman, his young wife and two children, the director’s playful and inventive mix of comedy and thriller-like plot turns makes Parasite a supremely entertaining genre vehicle with a humanist message attached.
The script by Bong Joon-ho and Jin-Won Han wisely paints nobody as a class hero or top hatted villain with twirling moustache, even though Ki-taek and his con artist clan worm their way through the front door of a swish mansion and a riveting third act leads to bloodshed.
Yes, Mr. Park (Sun Kyun Lee) is a snob and incurious about the lives of his employees, occasionally makes snide comments about how they smell, but that’s true of an entire social set who use exploit working class folk as drivers, cleaners and nannies.
It would have been a mistake to present the Parks as one-dimensional toff stereotypes, though, as tonally the film would have suffered dramatically. They lack self-awareness, but they’re not bad people.
The director and his writer are also keen to point out Ki-taek, his daughter, son and wife all possess valuable workplace skills, though they’re using them for duplicitous purposes, growing more and more avaricious towards the Parks’ material wealth and happy setup.
There are millions like Ki-taek, Parasite tells us. They can’t catch a break and are forced into a humiliating existence, where aspirations are consistently dashed and providing the basic necessities is a struggle to attain.