Okja is the latest film from Bong Joon-ho, the director Snowpiercer, Mother, and a handful of other movies. It tells the story of a girl, Mija, who raises a super pig named Okja on her grandfather’s farm in South Korea. The corporation that owns Okja comes and takes her away, leading Mija on an emotional journey across the globe.
I enjoyed Okja and the themes it presents, but it fell short for me in a few different ways.
The cinematography is beautiful, and I think Okja and the super pigs’ CG is impressive. There’s also a great chase scene in the first third of the film. Now if only Netflix would release their films in theaters…
The performances are strong by most of the cast, with the Animal Liberation Front being the only characters that fall flat. I just didn’t care about them, even though they’re the people in the film I best associate with. They’re one or two bad jokes away from being caricatures. Granted, everyone but Mija is ridiculous.
My biggest gripe with Okja is that it presents imagery of the disgusting industrial approaches that exist in the food industry today, but it doesn’t present any solutions to the issues. It doesn’t need to be tied up with a bow, but I think the film clearly has an opinion about it all, so make a statement about how to fix it.
Mija, who travels across the world and back for Okja, sees the treatment of other super pigs, but simply returns home with Okja and a super piglet. It’s back to business as usual for her. Shouldn’t that journey have changed her? Wouldn’t she want to work to help save the other super pigs and become an activist? I just don’t buy that a simple farm girl would go to the US, learn some English, see the atrocities that are committed against animals, and then return home. Mija seems so much stronger than that.
Also, this is a minor nitpick, but the Apple product placement showed no tact. If you ever want to take someone out of your film, have a rural farm girl say the words “retina display.”
Aside from the core theme of the treatment of animals in the food industry, the love tale between Mija and Okja is heartwarming. It really illustrates the bonds between humans and other animals, even if Okja is a fictional creature.
I’m grateful that Okja exists. Even if I have issues with it, it’s enjoyable to watch and touches upon issues that are important to the environment, animals, the public, and myself.