Okja Review, a meat industry satire and a declaration of love to vegetarianism

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By Sandra M. Ríos (@sandritamrios)

After the tremendous media hype at Cannes Film Fest, Netflix movie Okja made its premiered on its popular VOD platform last week.

Bon Joon-ho shows us a frankly satire about meat industry, the ruthless animal abuse and makes a good try to add members into vegetarianism culture.

In a fable mood with many fantastic elements, whose tone and style look like very similar to Wes Anderson’s cinema (for its peculiar and colorful characters) and Spielberg’s one (with his magic and children stars), we are in a kind of futuristic 2007, where Mirando Corporation, through the daughter of the owner, is making a reality show to choose the best Super Pig, among a series of animals that have been genetically modified to be larger and tasty. 26 of these mammals are sent to different keepers around the world and 10 years later, corporation will select the best. Macabre intention behind of this show is to keep their client intact by selling the idea that they offer top quality products and entirely natural. We can’t see them, but they are devourer, demanding and eccentric consumers who ignore, voluntarily, that behind the tiny and delicious sausage there is a horrible process of breeding and industrial preparing.

Bon Joon-Ho offers a story with sweet moments when young girl and its animal are together, but another ones are very bitter when she has to awake to a harsh reality and has to face it. As audience, we are complicit of their pranks and joyful life, but at the same time is unavoidable to feel guilty because we are meat eaters and hence we are guilty for omission from all animal abuses by unscrupulous companies. This is an open secret, but nobody acts.

South Korean director is direct with this critic and he is not hypocrite either when the center of this story is the same country that has produced the film -one of the largest meat eaters per capita. Okja is a satire story where the characters keep on the edge of caricature, a very risky line that sometimes bills invoice to this movie, but its good pace and some fantastic elements don’t let it falls in full. That unreality element (we can’t forget that) rescues Okja from some exaggerations and certain feeling of strangeness. All supporting characters don’t reach the charming we perceive on Wes Anderson’s movies, nor the story reaches a climax and emotion as happen on Spielberg’s cinema.

Over its imperfection, Joon-Ho offers some memorable moments, all of them when Mija is with Okja on screen. Of course, this is a movie, specially, for those people who like pets, because they can understand better the silent relationship with a human and an animal. This kind of audience can connect better with Joon-Ho’s purpose.

Meat companies critic is compelling beyond all the “ornaments” director wanted to put it. Besides, it is a bold attempt to add new vegetarians in their ranks. In that universe, we have a bittersweet result when the battle to get a dignified sacrifice to animals has been lost in real life. It is evident its intention to have a happy ending. So, all lightness of this story can be excused, partially, because Bon Joon-Ho has selected a genre where everything can be possible. Okja has an end as beauty and deep as painful.

Tilda Swinton, who plays two characters, Paul Dano and Jake Gyllenhaal have a good performances and read very well director’s idea, but they are not essential for this film.

Okja was a very risky bet at Cannes, not only for been a production by Netflix and all distribution controversy, but also for its style and the target (it is a commercial film). Okja didn’t win the Palme D’Or because the one is not for that level. Quite simple! All the hype around this movie was a good promotion for its. Okja offers a good experience visually, it has good and beautiful visual effects to enjoy on big screens, so, it would be very interesting to prove how would be consumer behaviour if this could select the format to watch it. This way, distributors would not impose their monetary interests and their own tastes.

Cast & Crew

  • Director: Bon Joon-ho
  • Running Time: 120 minutes
  • Genre: Adventure, fantasy
  • Screenplay: Bong Joon-Ho, Ted Sarandos
  • Cast: Tilda Swinton, Paul Dano, Ahn Seo-hyun, Jake Gyllenhaal, Byun Hee-bong, Lily Collins, Steven Yeun, Shirley Henderson Daniel Henshall, Devon Bostick, Giancarlo Esposito
  • Cinematography: Darius Khondji
  • Music: Jaeil Jung
  • Edition: Yang Jin-mo
  • Country: South Korea, United States
  • Year: 2017

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