Stars: Song Kang-ho, Lee Sun-Kyun, Cho Yeo-jeong, Chang Hyae-jin, Park So-dam, Choi Woo-shik
Not quite the masterpiece mooted, but South Korean writer-director Bong Joon-ho’s latest genre juggler is a nimble and cheeky melange of social commentary, dark satire and horror movie. The beginning is redolent of Hirokazu Kora-Eda's ‘Shoplifting’ as we are introduced to the Kims, a family of small-time criminals who live in a shabby ‘semi-basement’ where half their window is obscured by paving. Song Kang-ho is Kim Ti-Taek the louche patriarch living with wife Chung-sook (Chang Hyae-jin), and their children: talented forger daughter Ki-Jung (Park So-dam) and pizza delivery boy son Ki-woo (Choi Woo-shik). Following a tip-off from a friend, Ki-Woo wangles a job as a private English tutor for shy teen Da-hye (Jung Ziso), daughter of wealthy couple, the high-flying businessman Mr Park (Lee Sun-kyun) and his slightly air-headed stay-at-home partner Yeon-kyo (Cho Yo-Jeong). Before long, all of Ki-Woo’s family, posing as various helps, have secured jobs with the couple. When the Parks go on holiday, the Kim family move in to the luxury pad, but a surprise visit sets a whole series of unlikely events in motion. Bong deftly orchestrates the changes in tone, while an artfully constructed script eschews an easy slobs vs. snobs narrative. The characterisation is complex and nuanced with the cast all rising to the occasion, although special mention goes to Cho Yo-Jeong as the pleasant and well-meaning but hopelessly naïve Yeon Kyo. The production values are flawless too, with Lee Ha-jun’s splendid designs vividly contrasting the semi-subterranean squalor of the Kim’s dwelling (where passing drunks are known to urinate up against their window) with the airy, light minimalism of the Park’s state-of-the-art living space.