Synopsis (including spoilers):
Kim Ki-woo (Choi Woo-shik) became a private tutor for the daughter of Park Dong-ik (Lee Sun-kyun), a CEO of a IT company. Ki-woo forged his identity as a student of a prestigious university to get this job. He then recommended the mother Choi Yeon-kyo (Cho Yeo-jeong) his sister Kim Ki-jeong (Park So-dam) to tutor also tutor Yeon-kyo’s son for arts. Ki-jeong also pretended that she was from overseas and specialized in child psychology. Ki-jeong then caused the original driver to be fired so that Ki-woo’s and Ki-jeong’s father Kim Ki-taek (Song Kang-ho) became the driver for Dong-ik’s family. Ki-taek then made plans to get the original housemaid Gook Moon-gwang (Lee Jung-eun) to be fired so that his wife Park Chung-sook (Jang Hye-jin) can replace the position.
Once, the Kim family stayed at the Park family’s house when the Park family went on a camping trip as the Kim family wanted to experience living in a big house rather than the basement. Moon-gwang suddenly returned to the Park family’s house and revealed a secret bunker underneath the house where her husband was living in. The Park family also suddenly returned, the Kim family scurried to hide, and Chung-sook kicked Moon-gwang down the stairs to the basement, indirectly causing the death of Moon-gwang. Before her death, Moon-gwang got her husband to promise revenging for her.
The very next day, the Kim family got invited respectively to the birthday party hosted by the Park family. Due to the heavy rain the previous day, the basement house of the Kim family was flooded and the family had to sleep at the community center. Ki-taek was bothered when he saw Yeon-kyo secretly expressing her discomfort over the stench in the car as Ki-taek drove her to the supermarket. During the birthday party, Moon-gwang’s husband escaped from the bunker by hitting Ki-woo on his head, and also stabbed Ki-jeong. He was then stabbed by Chung-sook with a BBQ skewer. As Dong-ik tried to shift Moon-gwang’s husband’s body to retrieve his car key, he pinched his nose due to the stench, which triggered Ki-taek to stab Dong-ik.
Both Dong-ik and Ki-jeong did not survive the stab, while Ki-woo and his mother were placed on probation after being charged for fraud. Ki-woo had brain surgery and keep smiling uncontrollably as after-effect after his surgery. He later learnt that his father had been hiding in the secret bunker when he saw the message sent by his father using the Morse code. Ki-woo then promised to earn money to buy that house one day so that his father could be freed.
Is the lower class dependent on the upper class for jobs or is the upper class dependent on the lower class for labor?
My colleagues had been recommending me this movie, which I only found time to watch very recently. Indeed, this movie was really worth the Palme d’Or award at 2019 Cannes Film Festival. It not only reflects the behaviors of people from different social classes, but also questions the presence and the need for social hierarchy. Although the Park family were paying for the services provided by the Kim family, they were also dependent on the help from the Kim family, so being the employer did not truly mean they were of higher class than the employee.
It was wrong for the Kim family to obtain their job positions through fraud, and in the process also caused others to lose their jobs, but they did put in effort to do their jobs well. The son of the Park family once commented that the Kim family (although the Park family did not know they were related at that time) all had same smell, and the Kim family was quite affected by the comment, thinking they had the smell from living at the basement (or being poor). Nobody liked to be belittled, so that may be the trigger point for Ki-taek to stab Dong-ik.
However, Dong-ik’s reaction to the smell may be unintentional, as he was not familiar to such smell (since he was living in a totally different environment). Perhaps we should also be more mindful of our behaviors and reactions, be it intentional or unintentional, can trigger unpleasant emotions for others. The scene where Moon-gwang’s husband lost control at the birthday party somehow reminded me of the last episode of Hell is other people (although I had only read the recap for this drama) as the events happened quickly in a bloody manner. Since the turn in the course of events came unexpectedly, I was rather disturbed by the outcomes even after the movie had ended.