Going into Parasite, it’s hard to know what to expect. Advance reviews and discussions of the film—which won the Palme d’Or at Cannes this year, the first South Korean film to do so—speak of the film obscurely. For good reason: There’s a gleeful and terrifying twist—which I won’t spoil—that radically and dramatically alters the tone of the film.

But Parasite is director Bong Joon-ho at his very best. It’s a departure from the sci-fi bent of his recent movies (the post-apocalyptic Snowpiercer in 2013 and the factory- farming-themed Okja in 2017), though it’s no less concerned with the state of society. Set in Seoul, South Korea—a city within a country that has experienced an immense amount of economic growth in the past few decades—the families and class issues at play reflect our global era, in which the disparity between the haves and have-nots seems to be widening.

Parasite follows the Kim family, who secretly scam their way into the lives of the wealthy Park family. The Kims live a rather miserable existence, crammed together in a tiny apartment in the city, folding pizza boxes for money, stealing wi-fi from a nearby cafe. When a friend of the son, Ki-woo (Woo-sik Choi), recommends him for a job as an English tutor to the Parks’ young daughter, he poses as the worldly and educated “Kevin,” forging credentials from the top university to get the position.

Parasite is director Bong Joon-ho at his very best. It’s a departure from the sci-fi bent of his recent movies, though it’s no less concerned with the state of society.

Slowly and methodically, the Kims begin to drive out the other domestic workers at the Park residence, each time referring another family member (who they pretend not to know) for the vacant position. The sister (So-dam Park) becomes the Parks’ art therapist, the father (longtime Bong collaborator Kang-ho Song) becomes the driver, and the mother (Hye-jin Jang) becomes the housekeeper. And so the poorer family starts to settle comfortably into the grift—until a sudden realization turns their lives upside down.

The spaces in the film that each family inhabits crucially mirror that family’s dynamics. The Kims live at the end of a busy street, occupying a sub-basement apartment with only a single street-level window—which the neighborhood drunk often pisses near—to let in the light. Every surface is covered in their stuff, and both the family and their belongings are cast in a grimy sheen. The lack of space only heightens the claustrophobia and unsavoriness of the Kims’ financial situation, but it also speaks to their closeness as a family unit.

This is in direct contrast to the Parks, who live in a house designed by a revered architect. Their home is spacious, with large windows looking onto a lush green lawn—clear privilege in a crowded metropolis like Seoul. The lines are sleek, the house’s rooms are minimal and elegant, the fridge is full. But the familial relationships feel distant. And the house has secrets, too—for as much beauty as it contains, there’s just as much darkness.

Both residences were carefully constructed by Bong and his crew to show the important connection between physical home and family while creating the perfect structures for the events in Parasite to unfold. The resulting film offers an at turns hilarious and deeply unsettling look at class and survival, its essence echoed in the environments the characters inhabit.