By Martin Suryadi (BC, Canada)
A Girl and her Super Pig
Okja is directed by Bong Joon-ho and stars Ahn Seo-hyun the leading actress, as Mija.
In an alternate version of 2007 a Super Pig is announced that is meant to feed more people and leave less of an environmental impact than the average pig. 26 farms are given a Super Pig with a 10 year plan to find who can raise the Best Super Pig. 10 years later we meet Mija, a young girl who is raising Okja, one of the 26 Super Pig, with her grandfather.
Going into Okja I was expecting something of a modern retelling of Charlotte’s Web, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was more than just that.
Okja’s central theme is one of friendship. From the moment we first see Okja and Mija interact, it is clear that these two are more than just a farm girl and her cattle, they are friends. When Okja is taken from the farm, Mija does everything she can to get her back.
Unfortunately friendship is the only theme that seems to get closure. Other themes that pop up include those of loyalty, environmentalism, consumerism, and animal cruelty, but each are left with a degree of open-endedness.
The Animal Liberation Front (ALF) are an animal activist organization that are introduced early in the movie drive much of the plot. One of the side effects of this is that Mija spends most of her time getting caught up in the events that the ALF cause. Rather than giving Mija much of a purpose in the overall story, she ends up merely being used as a segue between scenes. Very little is affected by her presence and if she was removed the majority of the plot would remain the same.
While Mija played a small role in the grand scheme of things, she did manage to be the most enjoyable character. Mija displayed her relentless determination to save Okja with a pure passion in a way only a young child could. The other characters were much less likeable. Jake Gyllenhaal played a washed up educational animal show host that acts so overly emotional and mean-spirited that it becomes unbelievable. Tilda Swinton plays the CEO of the company responsible for the Super Pigs who flip flops between ideals so often it leaves the viewer confused on how they should interpret her actions.
One of the most memorable parts of the movie was the soundtrack. The tracks where Mija is chasing after Okja come to mind in particular. The mix of accordion and piano was unexpected but fit the tone perfectly. The sense of urgency that Mija gave off was heightened by the music that felt almost out of place, similar to how Mija must have felt out of place in the big city after spending all her time in the countryside. In general, the music was pleasant and added to the experience.
The visual effects for the movie were great. Every movement from Okja seemed like a real animal’s and the mix of CG and practical effects are blended nearly seamlessly.
In the end, Okja is a fun, heartwarming movie that brings up questions of morality and quickly shoots them back down. The visuals and soundtrack were great, but the acting wasn’t always consistent.