- Katherine McLaughlin
- 23 May 2019
Cannes 2019: Slickly directed and darkly hilarious satire from Bong Joon-ho
The view from the cramped basement apartment where Ki-taek (Song Kang-ho) lives with his wife Chung-sook (Chang Hyae-jin) and two grown-up children is grim. All unemployed, the family make ends meet via home-based schemes, folding pizza boxes and leaching off the wifi from a nearby cafe. When an opportunity arises for son Ki-woo (Choi Woo-sik) to tutor the daughter of a wealthy family, the entire clan hatch a cunning plot to improve their lives.
Korean director Bong Joon-ho moves away from the genre tropes of his previous features Okja and Snowpiercer to deliver a slickly directed and darkly hilarious satire that comments on economic hardship and capitalism. From the outset, the film catches you off-guard with its mix of pithy humour and tender familial interactions. It twists and turns with an unpredictable furore as the two families' aspirations and opportunities become dangerously intertwined.
Bong guides the viewer through a labyrinth of complex social issues via the setting of a grand mansion littered with expensive trinkets and a host of compellingly written characters, all at breakneck speed. He showcases his skill as a director with gracefully choreographed and thrilling long shots that capture calamitous violence, as he expertly balances farce with human drama.
At times, it's like watching a home-invasion horror, with stealthily polite and manipulative aggressors who don't really mean any harm. There's no judgment passed on either family; it's the widening class divide that's the true enemy. To say much more would be to give away too many delicious surprises, but the film unfolds like a warped blend of Jordan's Peele's Us and Hirokazu Kore-eda's Shoplifters in its blazingly brutal, smart and heartfelt messaging. It asks, can we exist harmoniously in a society that values commodities more than human life? The answer comes in the form of a tragic and bloody denouement.
Screening as part of the Cannes Film Festival 2019. General release TBC.