New from A Reel of One’s Own by Andrea Thompson: Toronto International Film Festival 2019: Parasite

By Andrea Thompson

“Parasite” conjures up images of a creature which takes from a victimized host without a thought of giving or the consequences thereof, but as Joon-ho Bong’s latest bit of brilliance unfolds, it’s unclear just whom is feeding on whom. But in the vicious capitalistic times we’ve arrived in, perhaps everyone is feeding on everyone, whether they know it or not.

The Kim family is introduced as an unemployed band mired in poverty, struggling to piggyback on free wifi in a desperate attempt to stay connected and make some quick money. Then the teenage Ki-woo happens to find a job working for the Parks on the recommendation of a far more well-off friend, and is quickly charmed their wealthy lifestyle. By a combination of smart planning and scams, his parents and sister quickly find employment with the Parks as well, who are unaware all of their new employees are related.

Of course, their cushy new arrangement can’t last, even if the Kims want to pretend it can. But the twist of fate that threatens to rob them of the tenuous good life they’ve found is so jaw-dropping it not only has to be seen, but experienced. It’s a secret which also doubles as a searing portrait of how the growing wealth gap twists the minds of the growing number of have-nots, and is eventually doomed to wreak havoc even on the haves in their blissfully ignorant state.

As the suspense and stakes grow and both families suffer horrific consequences, perhaps the only hope left is one based on love for those dearest to us rather than the trappings of wealth itself. Yet “Parasite” ends not with the beautiful dream of a reunion, but a member of what has become a literal underclass contemplating a future where he’s attained the status necessary to achieve that dream. Even if you’re able to free yourself from the dark obsession inherent in wanting a good life which remains tantalizingly out of reach, the vicious cycle, one borne out of a need that will never be quenched, continues.

Grade: A+

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