Parasite is a genre defying story about the disparity between classes and the line that separates them. The film is directed by Bong Joon-ho and is the first South Korean film to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film. Even more, it was nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Film Editing, and Best Visual Effects. Americans watch less foreign films than they should, but Parasite deserves to be seen, and then wrestled with for days.

Parasite is primarily the intertwined stories of the unemployed Kim family struggling to survive, and the Park family who enjoy wealth and opportunity. The Kim family receives an opening into the Park family’s wealth through an opportunity to provide English lessons to the Park’s daughter. Kim Ko-woo, the son in the Kim family, is seen as a non-threat to his friend, Min, who is leaving the tutoring position with the Parks. Min has fallen in love with the underage Park daughter, and can’t trust her tutoring to his college friends. Min admits that the Parks will expect that their tutor has a degree, but that they are simple and can be easily tricked. Unknowingly, Min’s invitation sets off a series of cons which leads the Kim family to infiltrate the Parks as they seek employment and opportunity. The editing and scheming of the con section of the movie is a very enjoyable ride. But eventually that joy ride will be shocked off course.

Parasite’s genius is seen in the film’s blocking and lighting techniques. The movie is blocked to always show how low the poor are, and how high the rich are in the scene. The Kim family is not just poor, they live in a subbasement. There is a window along the top of their apartment that looks out foot level onto the street. The family has no money, so they are trying to steal Wi-Fi from neighbors, but they must get as close to the ceiling as possible to try. Even more, their toilet sits 3 or 4 feet off the ground, showing that the plumbing can’t even get low enough to them. As the Kim family makes their way towards the Park family, they go higher and higher into the city. Eventually, when the get to the Kims they find a lush green yard, a bright blue sky, and a massive home with open spaces. The Park’s house is filled with bright lighting, while the Kim’s live in the darkness. Beyond just being a nice visual story, Parasite incorporates the elevations into the drama of the story itself. A storm comes through the city, and disproportionately affects some classes more than others.

Even if one is able to crawl out of the basement and into the lofty, wealthy life, the struggle continues. People within the same class fight each other for the opportunities they can obtain. Even if one finds a nice job, there is still a line between the rich and the poor that separates them. No matter how much respect or good work one provides, that dividing line still exists and cannot be crossed without consequences. The movie highlights the ability of scents to cross the line. The smells that one naturally gets through life in the poor environment travel with you. Even when you get the job you want, do you really belong? Your scent and your history still travel with you. How can you fit in with those whose lives are, and have been, so different? But, if you are faced with challenging life circumstances, even if you don’t believe it’s possible to get out from the basement, would you try?

Parasite is a movie that needs attention, but can be very difficult to watch. It is both comedy and thriller. There is one of the most awkward fully clothed sex scenes you’ll see in a movie. There is despair. There is lying and cheating. There is murder. But what else might you expect from a movie titled Parasite. It’s a movie about how people live in relationship to each other. And that is often not a life of harmony, but of parasitic violence and harm to each other. Parasite describes the despair that many people live and struggle through. It lacks good news. But it seems aware that it’s not answering how to fix the world. It’s hoping that enough rich people might watch it and open their eyes to the other side of society. And it’s hoping that enough poor people might watch the movie and no longer idolize the life of the rich, but seek a new world that breaks the dividing line down and levels the playing field.