Starring: Ahn Seo-hyun, Tilda Swinton, Paul Dano, Jake Gyllenhaal, Steven Yeun, Lily Collins, Giancarlo Esposito.
Plot: For 10 years, young Mija has been caretaker and constant companion to Okja, a G.M “super pig” at her home in the mountains of South Korea. But that changes when the multinational conglomerate Mirando Corporation takes Okja for themselves and transports her to New York, where an image-obsessed and self-promoting CEO has big plans for our titular piggy. With no particular plan but single-minded in intent, Mija sets out on a rescue mission.
The current trend of bringing high profile films to debut on the Netflix streaming platform has been a decidedly choppy affair, there hasn’t been that many so far that haven’t been bellow par at best. You can find gold on there though and just by viewing the trailer for Okja, you can tell that it is something special. Starting as an almost live action Studio Ghibli-alike proposition and ending on a heart wrenching and soberingly thought provoking note, Okja is a film that is not only wonderfully original Spielberg-esque tale of the bond of friendship but also a thoughtful exploration of the morality of genetic modification and the treatment of animals for mass production in the food industry, miraculously doing so without being right-on or as condescending as an angry protester.
Okja is a delightful creation, kinda like a big hairless guinea pig but with big flappy ears and the temperament of a curious puppy. It is a tremendous feat of CG design to imbue in something created in a computer, such a sense of humanity in its screen presence, you’d have to be a little dead inside to not fall in love with this gentle giant. Okja may steal the limelight but that’s not to take anything from the human cast, Ahn Seo-hyun imbues the young Mija with a wonderful innocence and a strong bond in her relationship to Okja and resolve in rescuing her friend, a bond any animal lover can relate to. Paul Dano gives fine support as a softly spoken animal rights activist, Tilda Swinton as morally dubious twin CEO’s and the most marmite role of Jake Gyllenhaal’s career as a screeching, gesticulating zoologist who walks a tightrope of annoying the hell out of you and admiring just how much he throws himself into playing this grotesque.
Do not be put off by its format, the fact that it didn’t get a widespread cinematic release in no way reflects the quality and message of this frankly remarkable film. It is a delightfully original and affecting tale of the bond between humans & animals and how that bond comes with a responsibility and duty of care. It may not be as family friendly as it might seem to be initially but that doesn’t make it any less of a rewarding & thought provoking viewing experience. Highly recommended.
Okja is available to view now via Netflix.