Director: Lee Isaac Chung
Cast: Steven Yeun, Yeri Han, Alan Kim, Noel Kate Cho, Yuh-jung Youn, and Will Patton
Synopsis: A tender and sweeping story about the roots that bind us all, ‘Minari’ follows a Korean-American family that moves to a tiny Arkansas farm in search of their own American Dream. The family home changes completely with the arrival of their sly, foul-mouthed, but incredibly loving grandmother. Amidst the instability and challenges of this new life in the rugged Ozarks, ‘Minari’ shows the undeniable resilience of family and what really makes a home.
Director/writer Lee Isaac Chung [Munyurangabo (2007), Abigail Harm (2012), Lucky Life (2010)] brings us a major, heart-warming tale. Minari is an award-winning, semi-autobiographical drama that paints a beguiling portrait of a Korean-American family weathering all of life’s joys and sorrows.
In the 1980s, Jacob (Steven Yeun) and Monica (Yeri Han) arrive in rural Arkansas determined to make a fresh start for their family. The dream is to grow Korean vegetables for the other immigrant families. The reality is a dilapidated trailer in a muddy field and the daily grind of paid work at the local chicken hatchery. They also worry over the future of their son Daniel (Alan S Kim) who has a heart murmur. The arrival of Monica’s mischievous mother Soon-ja (a scene-stealing Yuh-Jung Youn) to help with childcare adds further tensions to the mix.
Six-time Oscar-nominated, Minari is an inspirational family film with an exceptional cast pushing the limits of their family dynamic and highlighting the fact that the film is based on many important moments in Chung’s life – the driving force of the film. Chung uses Jacob’s son, David, as our guide through the film, allowing the audience to witness all these beautiful moments in his life unfold before their eyes. Moments of discovery, moments of understanding, and moments that teach him life lessons. Every member of David’s family teaches him something important about life at some point in the film and these moments will define him for the rest of his life. Many of these important life lessons come from his relationship with his grandmother Soonja, who he spends all day with while his parents are at work. Initially appalled at his Granny to whom he remonstrates: ‘You are not a real Grandma’, he eventually grows to love her and the two often travel down to the creek where they have started a small garden of their own with a plant from Korea called Minari, echoing the much larger garden of American vegetables that Jacob has grown.
With excellent story-telling, flawless acting and stunning cinematography – and with a title named after a Korean herb, similar to watercress – Minari has the authentic taste of those precious little moments that make up daily lives. A beautiful, uplifting film told with charm, humour and a fond regard for everyday struggles.
Minari is streaming on digital platforms
Images courtesy of Altitude