Who would have guessed that one of the best films of the year so far would be from Netflix?
Synopsis: For 10 idyllic years, young Mija has been caretaker and constant companion to Okja-a massive animal and an even bigger friend-at her home in the mountains of South Korea. But that changes when a family-owned multinational conglomerate Mirando Corporation takes Okja for themselves and transports her to New York, where image obsessed and self-promoting CEO Lucy Mirando has big plans for Mija’s dearest friend. With no particular plan but single-minded in intent, Mija sets out on a rescue mission, but her already daunting journey quickly becomes more complicated when she crosses paths with disparate groups of capitalists, demonstrators and consumers, each battling to control the fate of Okja…while all Mija wants to do is bring her friend home. (Netflix)
Starring: An Seo Hyun, Tilda Swinton, and Jake Gyllenhaal
Writers: Bong Joon Ho and Jon Ronson
Director: Bong Joon Ho
Running Time: TV-MA
Despite being about a young girl and her pig, this is not a children’s film and that’s okay. There were many things going on here and pulling the story in different directions but in essence is was about Mija (Hyun) and her genetically engineered super-pig Okja. It was the innocence of this relationship that made the story more endearing and gave it some heart amongst the corporation wanting to do them harm. The Mirando Corporation and their CEO Lucy Mirando (Swinton) had different plans for the pig, wanting to take it away from Mija.
The world faced an impending food shortage so Okja’s race was created as a possible solution that seemed too good to be true. This did not mean a thing to Mija as she was determined to rescue Okja and bring her back home. Over the last 10 years, they developed a strong bond as they only had each other. On the other hand, Lucy Mirando wanted desperately to change her company’s image and move away from her much different sister Nancy (Swinton). Her ideas may have been a little over the top, intentional or not, but it contrast well with Mija and Okja’s story. This was a weird film as a result, however, never became off putting.
Of course it wouldn’t be much of a stretch when we learned that the Mirando Corporation wasn’t perhaps the most honest with people when Mija met a group known as the Animal Liberation Front led by a man named Jay (Paul Dano) and another named K (Steven Yeun), acting as a translator. Their mission was obviously to liberate animals and expose those who do them harm which in this case was the Mirando Corporation. They wanted to use Okja as a way to get in and expose the Mirando Corporation for what they are but it wasn’t going to be easy.
They ultimately did, however, the result ended up as more of a reality check. The scene when Mija learns the truth about the pigs was very powerful to watch. Her march through the slaughterhouse along with the look on her face became emotional after our emotional connection to Mija and Okja over the course of the film where the ending was satisfying.
The CGI used for Okja was very well done, giving it plenty of detail while making it feel alive. The acting was excellent all around with Hyun standing out as the lead. She was very compelling to watch, carrying the film at times, making us care about her and her relationship with Okja. Swinton was great as the ruthless Mirando sisters but the dual role didn’t matter as much since they were too similar to each other. Gyllenhaal stole scenes as a flamboyant animal show host. This was quite a departure for him but he was fun to watch although some may think otherwise.
Overall, this was a compelling and original character drama, surprisingly hitting emotional marks and really making us care. The story may move in different directions tone-wise but in essence was about the relationship between Mija and Okja and this was the best part of the film.
If you liked this, please read my other reviews here and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter, follow me on Instagram, and also like me on Facebook. Would you like to write movie reviews for this site? Contact me above or via social media for more information.