I often feel the need to post a disclaimer before every “movie review” I post. Disclaimer: I am not a movie critic, I am purely a fan of movies.
Okja, a film by Director Bong Joon-ho, is currently streaming on Netflix and I spent the better part of my Friday night watching it and feeling a lot. I will actively try to discuss the movie without giving away any spoilers but my over-excited heart cannot make any promises.
In a nutshell; Okja is anti-corporation and an activist for animal rights. Neflix was the perfect home for distribution of this film. Okja may not be a huge summer blockbuster when competing with films like Rough Night, Wonder Woman and Baywatch; the film may have gone undetected. Yet when making it available from the comfort of your own home, the film will find an audience that otherwise wouldn’t have seen it.
Tilda Swinton plays Lucy Mirando, a CEO of a powerful multi-national corporation, who announces in the opening scene that her company has created super-pigs who will get shipped off to 26 farmers all over the world to be raised. After the announcement we fast-forward, ten years later, which is where we find Okja. Okja is one of the super-pigs that was sent to live with a farmer in South Korea. We find that Okja has created a strong bond with the farmer’s granddaughter; Mija and though you immediately know where the conflict in the movie will be, nothing prepares you for the genuine ride this movie takes you on.
I think we all know why I decided to watch this movie, two words: Jake Gyllenhaal. I must say, I’m quite disappointed in every single article I’ve read about this film; they seem to only know one word to describe Jake’s character and that’s “WEIRD”. WEIRD? Dr. Johnny Wilcox is eccentric, exuberant, he lives in a false state of euphoria but he is not WEIRD. The beauty of Jake Gyllenhaal is that he chooses characters that often make you uncomfortable. Dr. Johnn Wilcox plays a sadder version of Steve Irwin, he is used by the corporation to make the audience believe that the creation of these super-pigs is done in a safe space and that ultimately it’s a positive thing for human-kind.
He is over-the-top, he is a man who believes his own hype, he is a man who feels threatened by the popularity that Okja gains, he is a man clouded by the fame and very much lost in his private life. Dr. Johnny Wilcox is someone who you sometimes feel sorry for but can easily find reasons to hate and Jake Gyllenhaal plays it all perfectly. (She says hoping the fan girl isn’t showing.)
Though Tilda Swinton and Jake Gylenhaal both portrayed exemplary performances, the true heart of the films lies with the youngest actress; An Se Hyun. She plays Mija with fearless-determination, when her friendship with Okja is threatened, she goes above and beyond to get Okja back. Her vulnerability led the way, but it was her undeniable strength that won me over. An Se Hyun held her own amongst a cast of powerhouses and I’m inclined to say this won’t be the first time her name will be making waves.
I won’t give away the ending but this film had the tears rolling and my butt on the edge of my seat until the very end. Cinematically, the film is visually pleasing; the lighting and setting fit perfectly with the mood of each scene. Okja had heart, it had room for a powerful discussion, had funny moments and it had moments that audibly had me saying, “Oh Please! No.” In a world full of sequels and remakes, we needed an original film that moves us to tears and Okja is the perfect cinematic adventure for that.