Poster: Okja

Poster: Okja

Very rarely is a film capable of changing you. But every now and then there are emotional pleas that change the narrative, like Black Fish did with the idea of whales in captivity. Other times it is a deluge of hard-hitting facts, like An Inconvenient Truth brought to the discussion surround climate change. Each of these set you on your heels by making you rethink the way the world works. And while Okja has more of a candy coating, it would be hard not to walk away feeling at least somewhat differently about the meat industry. But beyond its ability to sway people on the pitfalls that come with the meat production industry, or even capitalism itself, the film offers a touching take on a narrative as old as storytelling: man and beast. 

Photo Courtesy of Netflix

Photo Courtesy of Netflix

In this case, the bond at play is between a Mija, a young farmgirl and Okja, an enormous “super pig” bred to increase food production for the Mirando Corporation. The Miranda Corporation is run by Lucy Mirando (played perfectly by Tilda Swinton). They send these super pigs around the world to grow up in various locales and when they are mature, the company works to identify the best of the super pigs. When that turns out to be Okja, the Mirando Corporation arranges for Okja and Mija to fly to New York for a major ceremony. 

When MIja decides there is reason to fear, she tries to to free Okja. Along the way she runs into various obstacles as the Mirando Corporation will do anything to keep its prized pig in its control. When we reach the final confrontation, everyone must choose what really matters to them and act before it's too late.

Photo Courtesy of Netflix

Photo Courtesy of Netflix

While this all sounds serious, be assured it's not. Mixed in here are heavy doses of the kind of humor befitting of its Korean comedy origins. We get over-the-top performance not only from Tilda Swinton's profit-seeking CEO, but also a zany animal TV personality from Jake Gyllenhaal. All of this swirls into a narrative that makes much of the American capitalistic ideal look absurd. The film, and the characters within, represent a certain brand of Asian modesty coming into conflict with the brashest strokes of capitalism and corporatism. The result is likely to make you sympathize with Mija and the pig she just wants to love. 

Photo Courtesy of Netflix

Photo Courtesy of Netflix

Something like a mix of Free Willy and ET, Okja will tug at your heart strings with a blend of the familiar and the alien, but it will also make you laugh with an over-the-top take on the various actors involved. Part love for a pet, part love for a friend, part just doing the right thing, the companionship between Mija and Okja seems set to join the ranks of classic movie bonds.

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