Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Okja - Review

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If I told you, a blockbuster film will be released, a film that not only tackles some truly controversial and scary subjects, displays pure human emotion from mental instability and depression to utter happiness, and then sprinkled an outstanding cast featuring not only established and familiar talent but is in fact led by an amazing young girl - now, that already sounds award worthy. Make no mistake, Okja is award worthy and I still can't grasp the excitement that comes with being given a film like that upon release that I watched in my home mere minutes after.

Bong Joon-ho is an incredibly underrated director, with a lot of his work failing to crossover to an English speaking audience or at least hasn't been given that support, until now. As a Netflix Original film with a star studded cast including Tilda Swinton, Jake Gyllenhaal, Paul Dano, Steven Yeun and Lilly Collins, it's difficult to feel these actors didn't have just as much passion about the project as the director himself. Okja is a heartwarming, cruel and contemplative fable that really collides tradition and condition together.

If you had doubts about the CGI direction of this film then throw them to the wind, because Okja features unbelievably (in the good way) fluent interactions between the CGI superpigs and the real world. Bong Joon-ho ensures he has your trust on that by allowing the opening of the film to present Okja in her natural, loving habitat with Mija.

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This film from the first image reveal, has screamed to me that it will be essentially a live action Studio Ghibli film, which of course says something about my own hopefulness but I can't deny that after seeing it, I really do think it'll be remembered just so, which is not bad in the slightest. A lot of people haven't seen the Studio Ghibli classics, or ignore them because of translation or simply the style. Joon-ho ensures that translation is a key element to his story and it's so refreshing to see something set in a non-English speaking country to actually have those characters interact in their own language. I personally always find that some realisation is stolen when you have a character speaking fluent English somewhere halfway across the globe. The multicultural openness to the direction helps to unify the important message at its heart.

Now, this film may look fairly easy to read initially, girl and her hippopotapig pupper - superpig in this case - seperated, have to fight against society to be reunited. However, this takes some very different stops and turns I never could have predicted. This film is not for kids, or at least, targeted toward a mature audience. A lot of massive issues are addressed, some graphic imagery and scenes and some truly heart-wrenching sequences leave you way in over your head. Thankfully, you have a hero like Mija (Seo-Hyeon Ahn) who is an absolute symbol of determination, love and humanity. She delivers an inspiring performance and completely steals the show from other great performances of established actors such as Gyllenhaal and Swinton.

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Harmony will always be more valuable than exploitation and Okja allows us to see and understand this. In a not so distant future, corporation and industry is booming even louder and twice as destructive but the beautiful relationship between a girl and her superpig is stronger than any dealers bond. A lot of the crucial points in this film and within the message it is sending are delivered subtly, the contrast between introduction and conclusion, where the characters are and how they grow is all directed toward the same ideal. Mija's father hits his television as it stops working to fix it, sure enough it does, but was it the right thing to do when later we see similar examples of animal abuse reflected in the actions of her father. Mija literally scratches Okja's back and then her own, how clearer can it be that this girl has everything together, that's a role model.

The separation of the story becomes almost unbearable, you feel just as strongly about this case as Mija does and crave that happy ending. The only difference is that it's no fairy-tale, it's a fable, we have to experience the bad, delve into the depths so we can come out the other side stronger. At times, like many fables, it seems there is no obvious villian, cracks appear in everyone, motives and morals become diluted and you'll be right there, just as confused but determined as Mija in how you want this story to go. Everyone and no one become the villian and fate deals you a hand, as Mija's father talks of fate and tradition, getting married and doing what she 'should' be doing. You find even further respect for her character, the writing of this beautiful movie, and the performances of such a great cast. Oh and sure, you may not be in the cinema, but wait around a watch that post-credits scene.

Okja is streaming on Netflix now!

(Image found here)

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