Netflix has been hitting it out of the park with their original movies and TV series recently. Stranger Things, The Sinner, and Gerald’s Game have all been recent Netflix releases, with a caliber to beat some of the most seasoned of television broadcasters and filmmakers. One of the main films that stood out to me was Joon-ho Bong’s Okja – a heartfelt tale of a ‘superpig’ and her family.
Okja follows a young girl called Mija and her mission to save her best friend, Okja, from being kidnapped by a multi-national company. As much as this is a magical and funny tale of friendship, it is also a heartbreaking satire for corporate greed and the mistreatment of animals in the food industry.
Mija is trying to save Okja from Lucy Mirando (Tilda Swinton) – the CEO of the Mirando Corporation, who wants to create a ‘superpig’ to fuel her latest food venture. This movie really highlights how we, as humans, see animals as less than us, when actually they are our friends.
The ending of this film is especially poignant. Not to reveal any spoilers, but I haven’t cried that hard at a film since Marley & Me. It puts you in the position of these animals, innocent but not naive, and seeing things from their perspective really made me consider my actions in a different light.
Before I went to university, I wasn’t that interested in vegetarianism. I had tried it a few times, forgot I was a vegetarian, and then given up almost immediately. When I moved to uni and one of my flat mates was a long-time veggie, it intrigued me.
My interest was cemented after watching Okja. This story of friendship between man and beast made me realise that animals, as much as people may not like to think about it, can feel and think and be in pain. Whilst watching this, my heart ached for these imaginary creatures, that much that I made a big decision.
I decided to try to be vegetarian. For once in my life, I was going to genuinely try. It took me a while, and of course, I have lapsed at some points in these few months since watching the film. It’s only recently that I have genuinely been sticking to a mainly vegetarian diet, and I feel so much better, both morally and physically, in myself.
There’s no denying the health benefits of vegetarianism. It lowers your cholesterol, you tend to lose weight, and you generally have quite a balanced diet. However, the idea that I could be fighting against the mistreatment of animals just by changing my diet a bit, was reason enough for me.
By no means am I the perfect vegetarian. I still eat meat sometimes, if I want to, or if I don’t fancy any of the (usually awful) vegetarian offerings at a restaurant. I am just trying my hardest to live a 90% vegetarian lifestyle.
Some may say that this is a bit of a drastic decision to make off of the back of a film that isn’t real. This is the power of good storytelling. It can make you feel things, say things, change things. It’s a powerful skill to master.
By no means am I telling you that watching Okja will make you vegetarian immediately. It’s just so heart warming and also devastating at the same time, that I couldn’t ignore what it was telling me.
The friendship between Mija and Okja is beautiful. It’s fun, it’s hilarious, it’s special. They have a bond that even the threat of death cannot break, and Mija will not let go of Okja until she has her back.
Overall, this movie is an absolute triumph. Director/writer Joon-ho Bong creates a script that’s almost lyrical in its approach, so fluid and well strung together that there are no seams, no breaks in the approach, no cracks in the well-polished veneer. He creates a story that breaks and heals, it takes the watcher on a journey of both the mind and the heart. It’s art.
This film’s aim is not to make you vegetarian. It’s not to make you feel bad about your food choices or your love of meat. It’s a story of love.