Can we fight evil? Save our lovely planet from ghouls such as Monsanto and other purveyors of various poisons into GMO plants and animals? Can the good people win? Can we save the human race while preventing our animals from being seen only in terms of sirloin or chops? Such is the theme of “Okja,” a Netlix film streaming on the video channel (and causing much distress at the recent Cannes film festival when the jury president, Pedro Almodovar, perhaps rightly, took up arms against releases that never make it to theaters but go directly to streaming).
Mija, played by the pitch-perfect Seo-Hyun Ahn, is a Korean girl living in wildly beautiful mountains with her grandfather and a huge pig, the Okja of the title, grown from a genetically engineered piglet created by an American corporation headed by a grotesque CEO (Tilda Swinton). A note here, all actors save Seo-Hyun Ahn are caricatures, worse of all Jake Gyllenhall. Paul Dano who takes a turn, too, is not completely ridiculous but certainly miscast for a part much too small for his talent.
Mija who has had Okja, her beloved pet, for ten years, is quite unaware of the evil corporation’s plan for the pig, one of only twenty-six to survive among untold numbers. It is to be displayed in a huge parade in New York as the triumph of science over world hunger, then slaughtered and quartered. Added to the animal’s woes and bleak future is a terrible scene of rape and torture, rather discreetly filmed though the sound track doesn’t leave much to the imagination.
Enter animal activists who manage, with Mija’s active participation, to save the pig and return it, with its young mistress, to the mountains they should never have left.
So, to see or not to see? Going back to “Babe” or back as far as “Lassie” or our grandparents’ “Rin TinTin,” which of us has not had a love story between child and animal tug at our heartstrings? If that’s your cup of tea, definitely go for it. Our planet’s future is added incentive. As for the cinematographic value of “Okja” and its place in the pantheon of great films, well..