Okja was panned by critics at the Cannes Film Festival, booed by the audience in attendance, and has had controversy surrounding its release in South Korea. All this over young farm girl Mija, who helps raise a “super-pig” for a competition run by the Mirando Corporation, while also trying to save her best friend and pet from being used as a new type of genetically engineered food.
So, Is It Any Good?
Bong Joon Ho (Snowpiercer) has crafted a seemingly beautiful and majestic film. Since the first half of the movie is set in South Korea, the dialogue is all in subtitles. Don’t be put off though, it isn’t dialogue heavy. So you never miss a beat when it comes to watching the story and relationships unfold. What the film does perfectly is play on our own feelings of what it is like to lose a pet and not be able to say goodbye. This is one way Bong Joon Ho is able to make a movie that will appeal to the no doubt millions of westerners watching, without putting people off by having them read.
Mija is played by Sea-Hyun Ahn, who is nothing short of an amazing young actress. Tasked with carrying an emotional film whose main character is CGI would have been a difficult task for the actress. She is jaw-droppingly amazing in every sense of the word. The scenes she shares with Okja, and the emotion that comes through with little dialogue, are what makes her performance such a joy to watch.
One surprising aspect was Jake Gyllenhaal. His portrayal of eccentric wildlife lover Dr. Johnny Wilcox is unlike anything he has ever done before. It was refreshing not to see him front and centre, even though he is one of the top billed actors. Then there is the ever amazing Tilda Swinton (Dr. Strange), playing the CEO of the Mirando Corporation, who are planning on killing Okja for his meat. Swinton has you wondering throughout the entire film whether she is a protagonist or antagonist. A feat that is not easy to accomplish, given the way the film starts and ends.
The music choices are incredibly well selected and placed. It serves as an interesting dynamic and juxtaposition to scenes that wouldn’t normally feature upbeat music. This adds some unexpected lightheartedness to some very dramatic scenes.
Okja has a lot of heart and humor. However, this is not just a story about a girl losing her best friend that she has cared for since it was little. No, this film is also serves as a shocking and often graphic look at the meat trade industry. While end of the film hits you like an emotional sledgehammer, you’re left wondering, how does a movie start off so happy and endearing, but end in a way that makes you want to become a vegetarian?
Okja also stars. Giancarlo Esposito, Lily Collins, Steven Yeun, Paul Dano and Devon Bostick.
OKJA streams on Netflix June 28.