The new Netflix original Okja opens with Lucy Mirando (Tilda Swinton) gleefully announcing her evil corporation's super-pig project that will apparently revolutionise the livestock industry. Five minutes into the movie, we see a young girl named Mija roaming around in the forest with a gigantic beast that looks half pig, half hippo and it is then that we get to know the meaning behind the title of this film.
It has just been hours since I finished watching this film and I am already looking forward to a re-watch. I've been hearing about this movie for a while now but I did not know the cast would be this brilliant - Paul Dano from Little Miss Sunshine, Shirley Henderson a.k.a. Moaning Myrtle, the versatile Jake Gyllenhaal who is an adorable little pineapple in the role of a loud scientist, pretty Lily Collins, Swinton and more. Not knowing much about the movie did me good; I had no idea what to expect from it. So when Okja sort of blew my mind, I was surprised because this doesn't happen quite often.
Without giving up spoilers or any synopsis at all, I have to say Okja has a pretty linear storyline. There are unconventional twists and surprises, maybe even plot holes, but it all fits in really well. That being said, Okja is sad, terrifying, funny, mischievous, adorable and terribly fresh. The storytelling is as crisp as it gets and I cannot but overemphasise on how good the visual effects are. The rural mountain home where Mija lives with her grandpa and the urban setting where she happens to witness grotesque scenarios - are both visually enticing. The chase that is set on the streets of Seoul is so perfectly staged that my heart beat like a drum throughout the scene.
Okja is probably created in a laboratory out of complex codes and compositions. Despite that, the film does not fail to make us shed a tear or two every time Mija shows affection for her CGI friend. I am awed by the indelible friendship between the girl and her pet pig, and amazed at the masterful blend of several humane feelings that makes this movie so unique and overwhelming. Mija's love for her pet is strong and valuable, and her courage knows no bounds.
From the beginning, Okja feels like a dystopian sci-fi infused with dark humour and drama. As the story unfolds and welcomes more characters, it begins to feel less fictional and more tangible and real. The movie sheds enough light on the issue of animal abuse. It rightfully advocates for animal rights and the sudden introduction of the Animal Liberation Federation (ALF) led by Paul Dano sort of makes the advocacy stronger. I absolutely loved how well written the characters that make the ALF team are. All of them play very humane roles and the film gets a breath of fresh air because of the super subtle jokes and witty emotions that come with these characters.
I want to call Okja a dark social commentary, but it is also a brave young girl's adventure story that takes place across two continents. It is on one hand, a realistic coming-of-age movie that takes place in the near future when genetic engineering has taken a more stable yet frightening form, while on the other, is a vivid representation of the capitalistic society where even 13-year olds are bound to bow down.
This movie is a lot of things and deserves a lot of adjectives. The best descriptor I can think of right now is that Okja represents three giant bags full of very well seasoned French fries neatly piled up against two racks of beautifully cooked meat. You might as well stock up on tissues before watching it.
Mashiat Lamisa believes in unicorns, flashlights and everything nice. Prove her wrong at email@example.com