‘We all love the face and the anus, as American as apple pie! Hot dogs. It’s all edible…’
South Korean director Joon-Ho Bong is probably best known to Western audiences for his bonkers but brilliant train trip movie Snowpiercer. That film was quietly one of the best of 2013 despite being seen by about ten people. Okja sees him combine with acclaimed writer Jon Ronson to tell the story that Shape of the Water should have been…
The titular Okja is a big fat fucking pig. No really. An evil, multinational company has duped the public into believing that the huge pigs they are rearing all over the world are all natural when, in reality, they have been made in a lab. One such superpig, Okja, has been in the care Mija (Seohyun An), a young girl living with her grandfather in the mountains of Japan. All is well for Mija and her pig until the evil, multinational company return for Okja armed with their filthy American dollars and an unhinged TV presenter – played with gusto by a never-more-ridiculous Jake Gylenhaal.
The reason that Okja succeeds where Shape of the Water fails is that while both films are asking me to care about a humongous, CGI beast, only one of those films succeeds in that remit. Okja is a beautifully rendered combination pf the flying dog from Neverending Story and Chewbacca from… well you know who Chewbacca is and if you don’t we should probably part ways now. Back to Ojka though, I bloody loved the fat bastard. Part of the reason for this however is the star making performance from Seohyun An who sells her relationship with Okja perfectly. She helps to keep the movie grounded amidst some scenery chewing from the admittedly fun pair of Tilda Swinton and the aforementioned Jake Gylenhaal.
Okja probably has loads of subtext about the evils of eating meat that I allowed to wash over me in a wave of indifference. I don’t really subscribe to cinema with a message but if you want to be entertained and ultimately emotionally violated than Okja is the film for you. Along with the brilliant Annihilation, it is perhaps Netflix’s finest cinematic achievement.