Last weekend, I sat down to watch a newly-released film on Netflix filed neatly under the genres of “adventure” and “action comedy”.
Two hours later, and much to my surprise, I was a mess.
Clutching my cushion. Wiping my cheeks hot with tears after an aggressive spell of ugly-crying. Questioning decisions I have made in life. Regretting the homemade beef tacos I’d just eaten for dinner.
And all because of an enormous CGI “super-pig” named Okja.
The eponymous film is directed by South Korea's Bong Joon-ho (you might be familiar with his 2013 post-apocalyptic thriller Snowpiercer) and starring draw-cards including Tilda Swinton, Jake Gyllenhaal and Paul Dano.
Okja follows the story of one of a new breed of genetically-engineered "super-pigs" being peddled by their creator - a mega meat corporation named Mirando - as organic and ecologically safe.
Twenty-six piglets are sent to different farmers around the world as part of a competition to find the best environment to raise the new species. Ten years later, one of the super-pigs will be crowned the winner.
It's at this point that we meet the adorable, marshmallow-like Okja, who is in the care of a South Korean farmer and his young grandaughter, named Mija.
Okja is not just any animal.
She plays, she sleeps, she runs, she feels love and she feels fear. So you are immediately charmed by Mija and Okja's close bond, spending their days frolicking in the mountains side-by-side.
But their idyllic existence is suddenly interrupted when Mirando staff rock up to collect Okja and haul her to New York City for the super-pig competition.
And without giving away too much, this is when things get very, very dark.
What kicks off as a delightful, family-friendly fairytale quickly morphs into a disturbing, environmental action movie, lunging you into animal laboratories, factory farms and slaughterhouses.
Okja is a gentle giant at the centre of a battle between animal activism, science and corporate greed. If it sounds like heavy stuff, that's because it is. But it's also heart-wrenching, fast-paced and funny. And that's the genius of it.
Satire, sci-fi, action, adventure, horror, drama, coming-of-age. Okja truly is a genre unto its own. By tricking you into falling in love with a super-pig, Joon-ho forces you to confront some very real, uncomfortable truths.
“Films either show animals as soulmates or else we see them in documentaries being butchered. I wanted to merge those worlds. The division makes us comfortable but the reality is that they are the same animal," he told the Guardian.
So while the story itself is made-up, the themes are not too much of an exaggeration of reality.
It's rare for a fictional movie to so effectively send such a powerful environmentalist message. The 'e' word can sadly turn off viewers because they don't class themselves as 'eco-warriors' (admittedly, probably myself included) and there are a gazillion documentaries out there supporting animal activism.
But in Okja, it works beautifully because it is also an extraordinary work of art and entertainment. Even the iciest of hearts will enjoy it.
It's the first film in a long time to really make me think. Joon-ho's goal was to spur people to consider where their food comes from, and blimey, has he achieved that.
A week later, I continue to have an internal crisis every time I go grocery shopping - and I'll be experiencing that for a long time to come. Just sayin'.
You can watch Okja exclusively on Netflix now.
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