Okja (2017)

“Fuck off! We’re extremely proud of our achievements. We’re very hardworking business-people. We do deals, and these are the deals we do. This is the tenderloin for the sophisticated restaurants. The Mexicans love the feet. I know. Go figure! We all love the face and the anus, as American as apple pie! Hot dogs. It’s all edible. All edible, except the squeal.”

‘Okja’, directed by Boon Joon-ho in 2017, is a South Korean and American fantasy drama. Ahn Seo-hyun plays Mija the daughter of a rural farmer who is subcontracted by an American corporation, led by Tilda Swinton’s Lucy Mirando, to rear a super-pig called Okja. Okja is a genetically engineered animal specifically designed to produce a massive amount of meat. Mija and Okja have grown up together and have formed a bond, so when a representative of the company, Johnny Wilcox, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, takes the pig, Mija, along with an animal liberation group, pursues them. It’s a movie that disconcertingly mixes tones. It starts as a Roald Dahl style children fantasy, but as the intentions of the company and the prospective fate of Okja become clearer, Joon-ho takes his film down a darker route. This dovetails perfectly with the story and with the political subtext the film is conveying: that of the superficially romantic industry of raising animals versus the realities of battery-farming and slaughterhouses. The other effect it has is to connect you emotionally with the animal at the start of the film only to exploit that connection during the final act. It’s a surprisingly powerful film, but one with a strong line in broad satire and comic performances, but again, the comic characters are shown to shift through the film as their real and darker nature’s surface. The critical reaction to the film has been eclipsed by a controversy about whether a movie produced by Netflix should have been exhibited at Cannes, but this distracts from its true qualities.

Would I recommend it? It’s a strong, emotionally engaging and witty film with an exceptional piece of CGI design at its centre. Watch in a double bill with ‘Le Sang des Bêtes’, another film with a powerful anti-meat message.

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