by Paislee House, Film Critic
This month’s pick is the Netflix original “Okja.”
“Okja” is unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. Directed by Bong Joon-ho who also made “The Host” and “Snowpiercer” (both great movies you should watch), “Okja” takes place in the United States and South Korea. The story follows a young girl, Mija, who lives with her grandfather, a farmer in the South Korean countryside. Both Mija and Okja, the super pig, end up in the United States under less than ideal circumstances, and the two are forced through a series of hurdles that keep them apart. “Okja” is ultimately a story about factory farming, animal cruelty, and friendship. As the film progresses, it is clear Mija loves Okja, and as Mija chases after Okja with members of the Animal Liberation Front, Joon-ho’s messages come through loud and clear.
Aside from the wonderful story, “Okja” features killer performances from Seo-Hyun Ahn, Paul Dano, Tilda Swinton, and Jake Gyllenhaal. Seo-Hyun Ahn is nothing less than a certified badass in the movie. She literally travels the globe to save her best friend and is in what seems like endless horrific and dangerous situations. Plus, Tilda Swinton proves again that she is the master of playing eccentric characters (see Joon-ho’s 2013 film “Snowpiercer”).
However, Bong Joon-ho’s writing is the true star of the film. Joon-ho did extensive research for the movie even going so far as entering a slaughterhouse and becoming a temporary vegan. The way in which Joon-ho chooses to depict all of the different sides in the animal debate is unprecedented. It is honest. Joon-ho’s writing also balances tonal shifts in an impeccable manner. Despite the dark story and images present in the film, there are moments of pure happiness and hilarity.
Overall, “Okja” is a superbly balanced rollercoaster of a film. I laughed and cried (a lot), but when I left the screening I was experiencing joy and appreciation for Joon-ho’s audacious film. I could praise this movie for days, so the next time you need something to watch on Netflix make sure you check out “Okja.”