Reviewing Okja: Less eating, more thinking

Posted on 7 July, 2017 by Team Wishberry

You remember what The New York Times said about our super pigs? ‘Intriguing,’ right? Slate! Lucy Mirando is pulling off the impossible. She is making us fall in love with a creature that we are already looking forward to eating. I mean these are journalists who never write about pigs!

Lucy Mirando (Tilda Swinton), Okja’s wolf in sheep’s clothing who wants to be 'prom queen' hits the nail on its head.

Bong Joon-ho's Okja, showed up at Cannes this year and caused a much-needed furore — Okja will not be released in France because according to French laws, films must be kept off digital streaming platforms for at least 36 months after their theatrical release. It released on Netflix on June 28.

Everyone got talking about the film produced by Netflix and the way it captured popular imagination. It is, after all, a film that talks about our inherent consumerist nature that defies all our beliefs!

Okja is a film about a super-pig and her relationship with a little girl (Mija) who is willing to go any lengths to ensure her beloved pet’s safety. Okja is a businesswoman’s desperate attempt to reconcile her two worlds — that of ruthless capitalist business strategy and a legacy that includes a father who was recognized as a "murderer", and of appearing to be in sync with the needs of the people. Okja is about an animal rights’ group and their attempt at retaking the ‘public’ stage by upstaging a corporate entity. Finally, Okja is about what we are willing to sacrifice in order to satiate ourselves, and how far we are willing to allow others to dictate our fortunes as a people — as the human race.

By creating two contrasting worlds to make his point — one, the picturesque mountainside of Korea and other in the ‘city’; be it Seoul or New York, director Bong Joon-ho is telling you something — there is still some semblance of balance left in the countryside that the city has forgotten. In the countryside, you can roam wild and free and encounter the bounty that nature has to offer and you can gawk at it and appreciate it with awe that the spectacle is deserving of. In the country, even a ‘synthetic’ super-pig has its place. In the city; in the concrete jungle where monotonous escalators, 4/5/6/15/-laned highways (you get the drift) and technology make their presence felt, nothing is sacred — not Okja’s life, not Mija’s innocence and surely not the health of the civilians in the face of the development that we all know as GMO (genetically modified organism).

The characters are also representative of this stark difference. Lucy Mirando dresses sleek — eyebrows on fleek. But, little Mija looking to reunite with Okja doesn’t care about her dirty muddy clothes! The two pivotal characters of the film are perfect foils for each other. They are both willing to go any lengths.

The supporting cast of the film points to the detailing that went in during the process of making this modern-day masterpiece. Jake Gyllenhaal’s has-been TV personality Dr. Johnny Wilcox is nauseating. He will infuriate even the most polite viewer and that is a necessity in the universe of the film. And Jay (Paul Dano), the animal rights’ activist is evangelical in the way he approaches his mission of saving animals from further abuse by offering Okja as an unwilling sacrifice. His moment of reckoning with cold hard facts is something that all idealists will identify with — not everything is black and white, and your whites cannot remain untouched if you choose to ‘air your linen’ in public.

As a commentary on the way in which humanity is racing towards self-implosion that is not only tragic but also laughable, Okja does the job. As far as to why you should watch this film — if you are a film student, watch Okja because it is a lesson in melodramatic filmmaking without unnecessary drama, if you are a film financier, watch Okja because you need to support cinema of this kind and finally, if you are just someone who enjoys good cinema, you have your reason right there — Okja is good cinema!

P.S.: Cannes has announced that from next year, only films with scheduled theatrical releases in France will be considered for competition. Game on, right?!

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