The film focuses on two families, the impoverished and resourceful Kim family (played by Kang-ho Song, Hye-jin Jang, Woo-sik Choi, and So-dam Park), and the Park family (played by Sun-kyun Lee, Yeo-jeong Jo, Ji-so Jung and Hyun-jun Jung) who are affluent and a little naïve. Through the poorer family’s manipulation, the Kims trick the wealthy couple to employ the Kims.
The story has themes of escape, captivity, naivete and unpredictability. Things end up much more tragic than anyone in the story (or the audience) could expect.
Escape comes into play throughout the film. The Kims want to escape a life with fragile Wi-Fi access and a drunk who comes to their half-basement apartment window to relieve himself. The Parks want to be safe and free from the (they believe) dangerous servants that the Kims replace.
The freedom longed for through the escape transitions into captivity with the old housekeeper (Jeong-eun Lee) hiding her husband (Myeong-hoon Park) who is trapped by loan sharks in a shadow existence in the Park’s house. A crisis caused by a torrential rainstorm show that the Kims are also captive by their environment. Their captivity becomes literal as the Kims are stuck hiding under a table hiding from the Park parents.
Naivete is the best description of Mrs. Park who trusts the Kims without proper supervision of the tutors. Also, they don’t have familiarity with life in the poorer parts of Seoul. The Parks talk about a smell which acts in the story as a surrogate for the essence of poverty of the people living like the Kims. The affluent can’t recognize the smell because it is from an alien world.
In a low point of the plot, the Kim’s father suggests that one shouldn’t make plans because life is so unpredictable. The film has very little violence until it transitions into a horrific conflict. I wasn’t prepared for so much blood because I was unaware of the building peril. During the transition, there is a symbolic scene where pools of blood and water are flowing together after one of the violent attacks.
After reaching a high point with a celebratory party, the film falls deeper and deeper into its very grim outcome. Both the Kim and Park families are devastated and crushed-both parasite and host suffer.
The emotions through the film are fluid as the characters go through a series of triumphs and catastrophes. The storytelling didn’t force specific emotions on me with a Disneyesque conclusion. The score of such films can be a lever to aid the “Feel this” command. Parasite’s score is more subdued. When it’s noticed, the music is in the service of the story and is not a essential part of the producer’s emotional control panel.
Parasite wasn’t what I expected and turned out to be something much better.