Minari cast: Steven Yeun, Yeri Han, Alan Kim, Noel Cho and Yuh-jung Youn
Minari film director: Lee Isaac Chung
Minari Movie Review: 4 stars
Families are unpredictable things bound by invisible bonds and divided by immeasurable rifts. The worst of them cannot find a way to each other despite living under one roof. The best of them can drift, stay apart for years to effortlessly fit together when they meet. The bonds can jump over years, generations, continents and cultures.
Minari is the story of one such family of Korean descent who came to the United States sometime in the 1970s and 1980s to pursue the American dream. The husband and wife (Jacob played by Yeun, Monica by Han) disagree on the contours of this dream, the way to get there and what to sacrifice and what to wear. Their children (daughter Anne, played by Cho, and son David, played by Kim), who speak better English and are still quite warm in their Korean skin, are torn between the two.
A reminder of what is really important comes from across the seas via Monica’s mother Soonja (Youn). As a widow of the war, the only mother of an only child, she is long past the age of the “adjustments”. Soonja cannot cook, even though she carries what her daughter misses most in America (red chillies and anchovies), she swears she loves to play cards and watch bloody boxing matches, and she advises: “Get hurt growing up is part of it. “David explains that all of this means that she is” not a real grandma “as his friends have been.
A relationship develops between the grandmother and David, 7, which is the beating heart of Minari. In a way that only grandparents and grandchildren come together, they see in each other the things that the parents have not seen for a long time. Anne is disappointingly just one setting in this autobiographical story by writer and director Chung, despite the fact that David and his grandmother have enough love to accommodate everyone around them.
The film is set in vast, lonely Arkansas, where Jacob bought a farm that, according to local lore, is haunted by what happened to the old owner (not shown). Jacob rarely lives in California as a worker who separates the chicks by sex and is housed in a small house. He clearly sees a chance at the Arkansas farm to regain the life he left behind – closer to earth, under the open sky, growing Korean vegetables. This also makes economic sense, given the growing number of Korean immigrants.
Monica is upset by what this means for her children, especially David, who has heart disease. Their house is just a long trailer, there is no community, and Jacob reluctantly agrees to go to church – though they find neighbors who are most welcome there.
When Minari has a flaw, it’s almost too fairytale, in his attitudes, in his characters, which includes a friendly neighborhood worker whom Jacob hires, in his faint references to oriental exotic compared to the other side, and in the ease with which the Yi family gets over what God and other beings throw in their way.
The perspective of an Asian family that finds its roots in rural America instead of the usual urban environment, the piquant observation of the ways of the West and the children (“who cares what a little boy wears”), their unique rural and therefore universal nature Problems and their insights into the daily routine of families – portrayed by an outstanding cast – make Minari an experience hard to forget.