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Film Review: Okja

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Directed by Bong Joon-ho, this South Korean-American production by Netflix is unquestionably one of the revelations of the year.

Okja tells the story of Mija and her super pig, which after ten years in Korea is taken away from her to bring it to New York to breed it. But Mija does not give up and travels all the way to the States to try to save her super pig, with a little help from some animal rights activists. In a world of lies and appearances, Mija will need to fight hard against the system to save her pet friend.

Okja is, foremost, a critique to our meat mass production system. It is portrayed as unnecessary cruel and greed, which probably does not differ too much from reality. The message of the film is quite clear, and it is an ecological one. The whole thing makes the audience feel uneasy, especially when things get so out of hand that the film shows a certain parallelism with a concentration camp.

The film is, on the other hand, endearing. The relationship between Mija and Okja is so pure that you can feel their agony when they are apart. The film is also about animals and how they are treated by society. While Mija thinks of Okja as part of her family, most of the people treat the super pig as an object, as if it did not have any feelings. But she does. In fact, several times throughout the film we get to see more humanity in these super pigs than in the human beings themselves.

Okja has an excellent cast, made of both Korean and American actors. Ahn Seo-hyun’s portrayal of Mija is sublime, and we get to see a lot of well-known American actors like Tilda Swinton, Jake Gyllenhaal and Lily Collins. But more than the cast, the best thing about this film is that the characters speak in the language they are supposed to speak. It is not all filmed in English so that you have to imagine that they are speaking in Korean. They are faithful to the story, and when the Koreans speak, they do so in their language, so the essence of the story is left intact. This also helps the audience to feel Mija’s confusion when she has to travel to a new country where they speak a language she does not understand.

It is not only a daring and original film. Aside from its spectacular digital effects, the story has the ability to touch the audience’s hearts. In a sort of catharsis, Okja shows us our future. And it is not one we like. Mija’s adventure teaches us some things about ourselves and about the world we live in. And, at the same time, Okja is a masterpiece, a very enjoyable movie with a beautiful script that won’t leave anyone indifferent.

Okja is out now, available to watch on Netflix.

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