Parasite (2019)

In 2020, the Academy Award for Best Picture was given to a non-English language film for the first time. Parasite is a South Korean black comedy that studies class inequality.

The Kim family live in a half-basement, scrounging off their neighbours and local businesses while working low paid temporary jobs. When their son Ki-woo learns about a job tutoring Da-hye, the daughter of the affluent Park family, the Kims recommend each other in turn to take over as servants of the Parks, revelling and savouring the luxury.

Parasite is an enigma. Oscar winners often deal with societal issues by sensitively having the oppressed rise up and make the best of their situation (12 Years A Slave, Slumdog Millionaire, Green Book). However, in a black comedy, nobody wins.

It is easy to point at the Kims, the impoverished have-nots, as the oppressed rising up against their rich oppressor, but we also learn that the Parks have their own problems to deal with; oppressed, perhaps, by their responsibilities to each other.

Dong-ik, the father, cannot decide whether he loves his wife. Yeon-gyo, the mother, is often bored but has little interest in her daughter. Da-hye, the daughter, wants to be a normal teenager but is irked at her brother monopolising her mother's attention. Da-song, the son, is ignored by the family and valid points of discussion are dismissed as mental disorder. Meanwhile, the Kims are a harmonious family, united by their more obvious physical plights.

The film itself doesn't shy away from the bleak existence of basement dwelling and of comparing the haves to the have-nots, making for a very solid film. However, as the black comedy remains a consistent undercurrent it does take away slightly from its legitimacy - often portraying slightly more of a farce than it should.

But, in any case, it is a worthy social commentary and an entertaining watch.

4 stars