By Mark Saldana

Rating: 4 (Out of 4 Stars)

On the final day of this year’s festival, the newest film from South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho screened and wowed its audiences including me. Though the movie was not the official closing feature, it rightfully should have been. Bong’s darkly comedic thriller is not only one of the best films of the year, but is definitely the best film of Fantastic Fest 2019. Superbly written, skillfully directed, and beautifully acted, Parasite deserves loads of accolades and recognition for an achievement in cinematic storytelling.

Song Kang-ho stars as Kim Ki-taek, an out-of-work professional driver who, with his wife Chung-sook (Jang Hye-jin) and two adult-aged children, struggle to survive in a state of substandard subsistence. The family members all take whatever odd jobs they can get for food and shelter in addition to whatever schemes and scams they can pull off. Son Ki-woo (Choi Wook-shik) gets a lucky opportunity when his friend Min-hyuk (Park Seo-joon) recommends that he pursue a tutoring job Min-hyuk plans to vacate while studying abroad. The job involves tutoring the daughter (Jung Ji-so) of a very wealthy family named the Parks. After getting the job and eventually getting his sister Ki-jung (Park So-dam) hired as an art tutor for the Park’s younger child Da-song (Jung Hyun-joon), both siblings gain the trust of oblivious Park family members and manage to get their parents employed as well. This scheme begins mostly harmlessly until they discover a strange secret hidden in the Park household.

Writer/director Bong, who co-wrote the film with Han Jin-won, has made a thoroughly engrossing movie that intrigues, amuses, surprises and shocks. The screenplay itself is an extraordinary example of superb story and character development. And as a director, Bong Joon-ho perfectly paces his film and balances comedy, tension, and terror all in one riveting story. Never heavy-handed or too obvious, Bong even blends in social commentary about class division seemingly effortlessly.

The cast assembled for the movie is also phenomenal, helping the filmmakers turn the characters in the script into real flesh and blood people. As the Kim family, Song Kang-ho, Jang Hye-jin, Choi Wook-shik, and Park So-dam all give outstanding performances with Song and Choi giving particularly standout turns. As the wealthy Park family, Lee Sun-kyun, Cho Yeo-jeong, Jung Ji-so, and Jung Hyun-joon also deserve high praise with Cho standing out for her awesome comic timing. Also noteworthy are Lee Jung-eun and Park Myung-hoon who both offer stellar supporting performances.

Even though I have only seen a handful of foreign language films this year, Parasite is right at the top of my ranking for the year so far. It even has a great chance of being my number one movie of the year. It is still too early to declare it as my top film, but it is certainly the film to beat. I feel it is the film that cannot be missed in 2019.

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