Throughout my life, I have always wanted a pig of my own. However, after watching the Netflix original film ‘Okja’ – Directed by Joon-ho Bong (‘The Host’, ‘Snowpiercer’) – I want a super pig! At first glance it sounds like a ridiculous wish, but among the ranks of Gizmo from ‘Gremlins’, or E.T., Okja is a pet that anyone would want to have. From the moment we are introduced to the creature and her owner – a little girl named Mija (Seo-Hyun Ahn), to the dangerous experiences they both face, you see Okja as not just a beautiful visual effect, but a living, breathing creature with feelings and an emotional connection to her owner that touches you.
It is easy to see the movie as an animal activist’s wet dream (The Animal Liberation Force – led by Paul Dano – plays a major part in this movie), or as manipulative in its efforts. I, however, found it to be a heart-wrenching, somewhat humorous, commentary on consumerist greed of companies looking to make a profit off genetically modified animals, which do more harm than good for the digestive system. The prevalence of the commentary starts in the opening scene where Tilda Swinton’s Lucy Mirando gives a speech that makes you go from enjoying her bright-and-sparkly anime getup to immediately being shocked at her intentions. The Mirando Company, which she inherited from her father, has a goal of putting on a “Super Pig Competition”, in which the biggest and prettiest pig will be chosen as not only the company’s mascot, but as the next food product.
Of course, Okja gets chosen by none other than well-renowned “animal lover” Johnny Wilcox (played in a ridiculously giddy manner by Jake Gyllenhaal), as part of the campaign; with film crew and all (one of them being Shirley Henderson). From there, we seem to know where both character and movie are going. ‘Okja’ eventually turns into a story of danger and survival as Mija makes her way from the valley of Seoul, North Korea to the big city of New York to save her precious pig.
In more ways than one, ‘Okja’ surprises you with the many directions it is going, but ends up leaving you touched and amazed.