michaelsallen91’s review published on Letterboxd:
Parasite is a film that works on so many different levels, it's a tense, taut, exhilarating thriller that is smart and sleek on every single level. It's a jet black hilarious comedy and it's a subversive social satire about class divides. It somehow manages to meld its various genres into a cohesive film that is a masterpiece of cinema, truly one of the greatest films of the decade. I went into the film blind with only a very brief synopsis and I think that is the best way to view it, as the layers of plot and intrigue reveal themselves, it is an utterly absorbing, fascinating experience.
From the opening of the film, you meet our central protagonists who are an unemployed family in poverty. You see instantly their struggle and plight for work, income and self-preservation. The son of the family Ki-woo gets an opportunity to tutor for an affluent, privileged family and through various nefarious means he manages to get each member of his family employed at the household at the expense of the staff already employed. The basic set up is fascinating, but once that door bell rings and the former housekeeper is at the door, that's when the film goes into overdrive in terms of its sheer exhilaration and intensity. The film both on a literal and thematic level is absolutely enthralling and it is why I love and appreciate the medium so much.
So, why is the film called Parasite? A parasite is an organism that lives in or on an organism of another species and it becomes its host and it feeds off of it by deriving nutrients at the other's expense. The family take an interest in the Park family because through infiltration, manipulation and their own selfish, nefarious means they feed off of them for their own gain. They lie, cheat and forge their way into a household. Parasite is a film about how late era capitalism erodes morality and decency, when you are faced with poverty, those virtues have to be ignored for self-preservation. When the father has a moment of empathy and regret for the driver the family got fired, the daughter scathingly reminds him that they need to look out for themselves. The film is a metaphor for class divide between rich and poor, but there is also a divide amongst the same classes present in the film. When the former housekeeper presents herself and you understand her and her husband's plight and struggles, rather than the two families working together and forging an understanding, they become embroiled in a battle with the Ki family desperately wanting to preserve their position.
The Park family are also parasitic, the relationship is paradoxically symbiotic in how they rely on their staff so much. Neither the mother or the father of the household have the time, know how or inclination to do simple things like clean or prepare a meal. While the services provided by the working classes in their employ are complete luxuries, without them, they wouldn't be able to function because they simply do not know how to do basic things like cook and clean. It is a wider metaphor for how the upper echelons of society are where they are because it is off the back of the lower classes and they prosper through their labour. While it is a damning look at the class divide, the film explores its social themes subtly, the Park family are not overtly cruel, evil or callous. They are not portrayed as moustache twirling villains of the piece, they are simply naive and ignorant, their class and privilege is something they just take for granted as something that exists as they have no other frame of reference. The mother in particular whilst educated is naive and gullible, they are sheltered from the rest of the world which enables them to be manipulated. However, while they feel they have to come into close proximity with the working classes in their employ, it is important to them that there are rules in place and that there are boundaries and lines between them. They have no interest in genuine understanding, empathy with those they deem beneath them and they want to keep away that smell of poverty and draw a line in the sand between it and them.
Parasite is a fantastic parable and social commentary on classicism, wealth inequality, poverty, the lack of understanding and empathy between the classes, the desperation of late capitalism and no matter what you do, in the end, that stench of poverty and inequality will never leave you and neither will this film, especially with its incredibly hopeful, happy ending - only for it to be snatched away from both you and the Ki family instantly.