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‘Parasite’

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My father did not memorize much Scripture, but there was one he would use a lot from Numbers 32:23.

It’s not the whole verse, just the last phrase: “Be sure your sin will find you out.”

That phrase ran through my mind as I watched “Parasite.”

Directed by Bong Joon-ho, “Parasite” is a story of a poor family, the Kims, living in an apartment that is half underground and have above ground. People like to use the area outside of their window as a toilet.

They seem to lack ambition but not resources.

The father, Ki-taek (Kang-ho Song), talks of plans that never materialize. His wife, Chung-sook (Hey-jin Jang), and their two children – son, Ki-woo (Woo-sik Choi) and daughter Ki-jung (So-dam Park) – seem to wait for how those plans will lift them from poverty.

Yet, none of the family make much of an effort, and none has jobs.

Ki-woo meets with his friend, Min (Seo-joon Park), who tells him of a job he is leaving that would be great for Ki-woo. It is being an English tutor to the daughter of a rich family, the Parks.

Ki-woo says he has no experience or even a degree, but, with help from his sister, Ki-jung, a fake diploma and documents are created. He is in.

As the story unfolds, we see Ki-woo use his entrance to the Park family to get jobs for the rest of his family.

Sister Ki-jung becomes an art tutor for the family’s little boy. Father Ki-taek becomes the family’s driver. Mother Chung-sook becomes the live-in maid/cook.

The way they get these jobs is through lying and framing the servants who have the current jobs. Before too long, the whole family is deeply embedded in the Park family’s lives.

The ease of their entrance is gained because Yeon-keo, the mother of the Parks, is not too bright.

She does not want to read or do research in hiring help. She depends on the word of those around her.

That is how Ki-woo gets the ball rolling to get the rest of the family in their hire. They use her gullible nature to their advantage.

All looks good until the night the rich family goes on a camping trip and leaves the house to Chung-sook. Within minutes, the other members of her family are in the house, drinking the rich family’s liquor and partying.

Everything changes when the doorbell rings. At the door is the former maid. She wants to come in because she left something in the basement and asks if she can come in to retrieve it.

From here, the story veers into another place and sets up what the director is trying to say.

“Parasite” has won critical acclaim. It won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. That is the grand prize of the festival, making it one of the best movies of the year.

Which begs the question: Why?

Bong Joon-ho speaks to the larger issue of class consciousness, but he does so without giving us anyone to root for in the story.

Ki-woo and his family have no real redeeming qualities. The only thing they do is find a way to make a hustle at the expense of the Parks.

The Parks are nothing more than people who seem to have hit the lottery of life. They have all they want and more.

Yet, the wife is not the brightest blub in the box, and the children are spoiled brats. The father is largely absent. Money has not redeemed them.

Bong Joon-ho is speaking to the fallen nature of all of us. And he is not giving us any means of seeing redemption.

He presents to the viewer a warfare of class where the poor fight it out for the attention of the rich, while the rich have no real desire but to live their lives with the least amount of bother possible.

Bong Joon-ho offers us no easy answers. Truthfully, he offers no answers at all. What he does is hold up a mirror and tells us to take a good long look at where we are.

I thought this was an interesting take on what Bong Joon-ho thinks of society. It may be set in South Korea, but the story has universal implications.

What we see, in the end, is that when we set in motion something, that thing has a tendency not to move where we want but to roll back over us.

Daddy and the Scripture were right. Our worst actions have a tendency to find us out.

MPAA Rating: R for language, some violence and sexual content

Writer and director: Bong Joon-ho

Cast: Kang-ho Song (Kim Ki-taek), Yeo-jeong Jo (Park Yeon-kyo), So-dam Park (Kim Ki-jung), Woo-sik Choi (Kim Ki-woo), Sun-kyun Lee (Park Dong-ik)

The movie’s website is here.

Michael Parnell

Michael Parnell is pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. He is married and has two boys. His love is for movies, and he can be found in a theater most Fridays.