This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Andrew Dignan’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
Marked with the spoiler tag and did my best to merely hint at the direction this takes but, as you've no doubt been told by now, this is so much better if you have no idea where this is going.
Took me a while to recognize what Bong was going for here which is a testament to how well the screenplay disguises its true intentions and just how transporting the filmmaking is in the first hour. Starts off in a similar vein as SHOPLIFTERS, emphasizing the cramped squalor (love the visual of the toilet which has seemingly been built on a shelf where no one could ever comfortably use it) and the small time scams/constant compromise required to survive. Should have been tipped-off something was up with the fairly cold-blooded manner in which the existing domestic staff is usurped and our main characters happily sliding into their roles while, for example, the former housekeeper sadly rolls her belongings down the road. There’s a sort of fantastical logic to the resourcefulness of the Kim family, reshaping themselves at will to appear as the perfect employees which the film weaponizes against them later on. This is not the first time Bong’s done class warfare but whereas SNOWPIERCER goes for big allegorical swings that boiled down to clearly delineated haves and have-nots, PARASITE is more attuned to the subtle jockeying for position within the classes and how need robs people of their empathy and (relatively small amounts of) money is meant to replace one’s sense of worth. Comes the closest of any film I can think of of capturing the parade of unintended slights and constant reminders of “your place” that comes from working closely with an absurdly wealthy person (I had brief PTSD flashes to my years spent as a personal assistant) with the film slowly--but then alarmingly quickly--ratcheting up from micro-aggressions to full on tragedy. Low-key remarkable production design as well, with the Park house nothing but sharp corners and dangerous sight lines and those giant, floor-to-ceiling windows looking out onto the backyard which eventually render the characters prisoners of sorts. Mostly though it’s just a dazzlingly well told story that navigates the filmmaker’s patented tonal shifts with even greater finesse than usual and kept me in a state of near constant surprise. The kind of film where I kept glancing around at my neighbors and muttering “what the hell is happening?” and I hadn’t realized how grateful I was for that reaction.