Netflix proves once again that their views are in tune with that of a new generation.
Okja (2017) follows main characters Mija (Seo-Hyun Ahn) and Lucy Mirando (Tilda Swinton) as they face each other in a gruelling battle of personal morals over the fate of the genetically produced wonder that is Okja.
Mija, a small girl living in the mountains of South Korea with her grandfather, has spent 10 years of her life caring for a genetically modified ‘Superpig’ named Okja, supplied to her by the Mirando Corporation. Lucy Mirando, the head of this company has been using Mija and other traditional farmers around the world to hide her revolutionary plan to use these new ‘Superpigs’ to fuel the world’s food industry, as a cleaner, more efficient source of meat. After Okja is stolen, Mija begins the long journey to reclaim her, running into a gang of animal rights activists (the Animal Liberation Front) led by the kind-hearted Jay (Paul Dano), along the way. She is forced to give up Okja after being captured and the horrors that ensue really open the eyes of anyone ignorant to the mistreatment of corporate farmed animals in the real world. Eventually, the A.L.F help Mija to reclaim Okja and show the world the cruel acts forced upon her; force-breeding, live meat extraction and disgusting living conditions. Once revealed, Lucy’s sister Nancy (also Tilda Swinton) takes over and continues running what is seen to be an already huge slaughtering operation for the rest of the ‘Superpigs’. Mija purchases Okja back from Nancy and the both of them, along with a rescued ‘Superpiglet’ return home.
Bong Joon Ho has proven himself to be an incredibly effective director previously with films like Snowpiercer and Mother, but this particular film expands beyond simple creativity with character and forces the audience to understand the real world through fantasy.
The story of Okja displays the lengths that can be taken to either prevent or secure the mistreatment of animals bred for consumption. I can easily see this film dramatically boosting the already rising numbers of vegetarians and vegans within the new generation.
You’re taken on a rollercoaster of comedic, dramatic and fantasy elements and through, what can only be described as some stomach-churning scenes, you are subjected to the unfortunately cruel reality of the world of meat production.
Besides the story, we see some fantastic performances from a truly fantastic cast. Tilda Swinton plays the Mirando sisters with a greed and lack of morals that is rarely seen in a lot of antagonists these days. Paul Dano inherits the purity and innocence that drastically contrasts from some of the previous characters in films like 12 Years A Slave, Prisoners and There Will Be Blood. Seo-Hyun Ahn, while young, still manages to prove herself amongst these giants of the acting world, presenting a bond between a young girl and her pet that can rival that of some stories based on siblings.
Overall, Okja earns the higher age rating with its controversial topic and themes but it also displays some fresh material for its wonderful cast and proves to be one of the most relevant and influential pieces of film to be seen in a long time.