I came into this movie knowing a lot of the controversy around it (Netflix) and that it was supposed to be pretty good. I watched a trailer before and it looked interesting enough but I wasn’t sure if I would be particularly interested in it. But, it blew my expectations away! Before I delve into what I enjoyed about this movie, can we just pause for a moment and appreciate the stunning opening credits of this movie. It makes me want to explore the South Korean countryside so much!
Plot: From watching the trailer, I assumed it was like any common “revealing the food industry” type movie but there were quite a few twist and turns especially towards the last third. There comes a point in the movie where you’re (or at least I was) almost wondering: “what next?” and Okja answers that perfectly. The plot consisting of a young South Korean girl attempting to save her best friend amidst a larger adult battle between the food industry and ALF (Animal Liberation Front) grounds the movie in a way that the audience can relate and empathize easily without feeling lectured of the atrocities of the food industry, but also still keeps the audience aware of those atrocities. I especially just loved the attention to detail that the movie had; I liked the fact that no one really understands what Mija, the young Korean girl, is saying because at the end of the day it just shows to how self-involved the US/the big corporations can be, yet she learns English to get a better grasp of this adult game she has become intricately involved in. Also, when Mija is running through a slaughter house at one point, you hear the workers yelling at her in Spanish, revealing how predominantly Hispanics are forced to work those hard labor jobs.
Actors: Even though he has a relatively small (but still important) role in the film, Jake Gyllenhaal STEALS THE SHOW; his character is so quirky and although he is most certainly part of the “bad guys” you can’t help but laugh at the most random things he does and says. He adds such a humor and lightheartedness to a movie that tackles heavy themes. It is definitely different from what I’ve seen of him before but it never comes off gimicky or off. Additionally, Ahn Seo-hyun, who plays Mija, the small girl, is amazing. Her relationship with Okja is so touching and so real I sometimes forget that superpigs like Okja don’t exist and this is all special effects. She brings a genuineness and determination to her young character; I was so scared from the trailer that she would be pushed aside because of the other big named white actors, but she holds her own and still proves to be the center of this touching story. I also really enjoyed Paul Dano, who plays the leader of the ALF; he manages to play the devoted leader and upholder of the values of the organization and because of that passion can be carried away, as you see in a few particular moments in the movie.
Last Notes: A few other things I would like to briefly mention before I conclude: the creation of Okja is so beautifully done, as I said before, I forget that Okja is not real. I enjoy the change is setting from countryside South Korea to New York as it reflects the transition from simple naivety to increased realization on Mija’s part on her journey to saving Okja. It’s a beautiful metaphor but also visually stunning. Overall, I think the movie becomes something much more than the food industry; it tackles larger themes like the discrepancies that exist between the English speaking world and everywhere else, but also smaller more personal themes like keeping to your values with fierce determination. I was so awed by this movie in more ways than one–I’m having trouble articulating it into this blogpost–and I hope others take a moment to watch this movie as well.