Netflix made waves at Cannes last month when the streaming service debuted Okja to rave reviews. And now Bong Joon-ho’s latest feature is available to watch online, after making a splash at this year's Edinburgh Film Festival too.

There was much controversy last month when Netflix brought their latest to France, with many outraged that a film not getting a cinematic release, but rather a streaming one, should be shown at such an esteemed film festival. Well, Okja continued its festival circuit this past week when it premiered in Edinburgh and, honestly, if it proves anything, it’s that even Netflix can make films of the same quality and genius of any other cinematic release that is critically acclaimed, backed by a big studio and budget - more so, even. Okja is brilliant. It is unlike anything you will have seen this year and anything you will see; this is filmmaking and storytelling of the highest standard.

The film is, in essence, a family film but just hidden in the body of a more mature, adult film with some provocative imagery and cursing. Our titular beast is a super-pig, that of a young girl Mija (An Seo Hyun). The pair are really close friends and have been for the decade or so Okja has been in Mija's life. However, when the self-obsessed and powerful Lucy Mirando (Tilda Swinton) steps in and takes Okja for her own selfish reasons, Mija - alongside the help of the Animal Liberation Front, led by Paul Dano's Jay - must embark on a rescue mission to save her best friend from being the latest victim of Mirando's corporation and the slaughterhouse. From the second act in, Joon-ho has us strapped in for what is a funny, touching, intense and incredible ride of love, loss and desperation.
The writing is superb and not only does Okja have a concise, streamlined and easy-to-follow narrative but it is has a surprising amount of heart and humour too. We can feel the years of friendship between Mija and Okja - what is ultimately the creation of CGI. However, despite being a creature of some slick visual effects, Okja is as human a character as they come and we find ourselves caring for the creature and fearing for its life and for its relationship with Mija. Most of these characters, if not all, feel so genuine and real; the exception to this is perhaps Jake Gyllenhaal's larger-than-life Johnny Wilcox but that's the point of this almost cartoonish, over-the-top character: he is the comic relief. And Gyllenhaal's performance is hilarious. Right from his first appearance on screen, he is hilarious and the character brings a lot of humour grounding what would otherwise be a fairly grim, bleak affair. In fact, all the performances are terrific - from Swinton to a charismatic Dano to Lily Collins, Giancarlo Esposito, and more. Undoubtedly, though, this is An Seo Hyun's show and she is most definitely a star in the making with a bright future ahead of her.

Okja may start off slowly and take a wee while to pick up the pace and find its footing but, once it does, it's a real treat. This is such a beautifully directed, gorgeously shot, tremendously acted, technically flawless endeavour. It has it all: heart; humour; emotion; tender, beautiful relationships and characters. There may have been an uproar that Netflix doesn't belong with the other studios but Okja has shown that it does because this is a damn good piece of filmmaking, as good - if not better - than most of the cinematic mush we get nowadays anyway. And Bong Joon-ho continues his winning streak too, after 2014's truly astounding Snowpiercer. Let's see what else you've got Netflix.

Okja is a beautiful, original and simply genius little film. It has the hearts and smarts and is truly incredible.

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About the Author

Awais Irfan
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.

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