For 10 idyllic years, young Mija has been caretaker and constant companion to Okja – a massive animal and an even bigger friend – at her home in the mountains of South Korea. But that changes when family-owned, 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 Mija’s dearest friend. With no particular plan but single-minded in intent, Mija sets out on a rescue mission.
“We already have FDA approval, correct?”
“Yes, we do. But I’m not sure how the customers will react after today.”
“If it’s cheap, they’ll eat it.”
Netflix’s Okja is a $50 million sci-fi film about a young girl’s journey to save her best friend. Lucy Mirando (Tilda Swinton) reveals her new “miracle” super pig as an answer to world hunger. The Mirando corporation sends twenty-four of these super pigs to farmers around the globe, challenging them to rear the biggest and best one. When returning to Korea to collect Okja, Mirando faces resistance from thirteen-year-old Mija (An Seo-Hyun) who refuses to let her best friend go.
Mirando tears Okja from her mountain home in South Korea and ships her to the USA. There, she undergoes cruel experimental treatment at the hands of TV personality, Dr. Johnny Wilcox (Jake Gyllenhaal). Mija embarks on an emotional journey to rescue Okja from the slaughterhouse. During her travels, she meets an activist group aiming to expose Mirando for their animal cruelty.
Director Bong Joon Ho looked to a variety of animals for the inspiration for Okja. “[The pig] was important, because pigs are very sophisticated and clean,” he says. Okja also shares her image with the manatee which Bong says “looks like the most kindhearted and fragile animal.” Actress Tilda Swinton thought of her dogs, particularly her oldest, Rosie. “I started to call her Okja. She’s completely Okja.”
Personally, I enjoyed Okja. The bond between a girl and her beloved animal friend extended to something far greater than just a friendship. The heart-warming relationship shown between the two really made me care for their well-being. This film also does an incredible job at exposing the atrocities with food preparation present in today’s world. The fact Bong used a fictional animal meant he could show far more parallels with the mistreatment of animals.
To me, this film felt deeper than just a film. It highlighted important issues surrounding animal welfare, especially in large corporations. As humans, it’s vital for us to strive for ethically sourced and reared meat, yet we often turn the other cheek for something far cheaper. I recommend Okja, especially for those who like films with deeper meaning.