Roman Arbisi’s review published on Letterboxd:
“He doesn’t cross the line.”
Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite exceeds every possible expectation set by the reviews that have flooded the Internet for months. Going in as blind as a bat and as cold as Antarctica will undoubtedly enhance the experience with this film. I was expecting a straight, calm family drama with a visual focus on a separation of classes, this film is anything but that exclusively. It’s a film about many things, and approaches them with varying angles and degrees of approach to express it’s perspective on two families on different ends of the financial axis.
It doesn’t take long to realize how special this film is, and just how airtight every single element of it’s narrative is. There is not a single wasted scene, or action within them. Each line of dialogue sets up the following lines, scenes, plot points, and acts, and it is executed so exquisitely that falling in love with this movie may be the easiest thing I’ve ever done. It’s so trusting of it’s audience and respectful of it’s material, that rushing through it, nudging it’s audience, or over-explaining it’s existence would all but tarnish how special it is in it’s simplicity.
I guess calling Parasite “simple” isn’t true, it’s interweaving, morally, thematically complex, but it’s driven and focused narrative allows those integral elements to the experience to flourish. I’ve reiterated the significance of what a film-maker can accomplish when they don’t bloat their film with excess and unnecessary drama. Films like Fury Road and Seven Samurai come to mind when being wrapped up in simple stories that excel because of how it’s able to elevate it’s thematic material. Parasite is the same.
Avoiding spoilers (and boy there are big spoilers here), Parasite’s innate ability to incorporate it’s themes is a testament to Joon-ho’s ability as a storyteller and a visionary. This feels so unlike anything I’ve seen all year because of how he chooses to frame the characters, how they’re blocked, and what each specific movement or line of dialogue symbolizes or means. It’s been so long since I’ve felt like I’ve watched something where each word meant more than it’s textbook definition. Not just in service to it’s metaphors or what have you, but in telling it’s story, building it’s characters, and their relationship with the environment. It all feels so natural and second nature that it almost seems to exist as a three-dimensional space within our own reality.
Our increasing unawareness to marginalized people is provoked by probing our privileges by comparison. Are these lines that we draw for other people fair in our analysis? How can we draw these lines for them if we don’t understand what it means to walk in their shoes? To view our own living spaces from the outside looking in? Joon-ho illustrates so many crises that it seems almost impossible to pull it off, especially when you consider the various tones it has. How crucial all of this feels is nothing short of remarkable, and each passing second elevates in tension, to where it culminates in an ending so sharp and contemplative, that everything that came prior is all the more effective.
This seems like an unclear ramble, and less like a review than I may like, but there are so many pieces of this film that astounded me, not exuding my nearly instant reaction is a disservice to the emotions this film made me, and clearly many others feel. Believe the hype and carve out a chunk of your day to find this film and discover the genius put on display. Every corner of this film holds something so uniquely special and delicate, that no other film-maker could have made this film, nor could they emulate it. This movie is the real deal, and one that should come to define an entire decade of film-making.