A family immigrating to America faces financial difficulties, as well as a myriad of complications including marital strife and a visiting family member.”
As “Parasite” swept the Oscars last year and caught many by surprise, it placed Korean films in a long awaited spotlight in the American mainstream film landscape. This year’s “Minari,” directed by Lee Isaac Chung, takes center stage for many mainstream film awards as well.
“Minari” is a Korean film about a family who immigrated to America where they take up menial jobs such as chick mating. These jobs are barely enough to support their family of two kids, let alone themselves. So, they pack everything up and move from California to Arkansas to can buy some land and start a farm.
Things don’t get much better here either as the father, Jacob — played by Steven Yeun — struggles to grow sufficient crops due to the high price of water. The mother Monica, played by Han Ye-ri, increasingly grows impatient and stressed as their son, David, played by Alan S. Kim, suffers from a heart condition.
As a piece that tells a story about a family that deals with issues extending beyond the monetary confinements they’re stuck in, the story written by Chung will hit home for many viewers no matter the background they come from. At the core of “Minari” is a story about the frailty of a family on the brink of splitting apart and the chase for something so futile.
There are many nuanced issues that make the audience guess where the family is going to end up. After moving to Arkansas with hopes of no longer staring at chicken butts all day to achieve something, this dream quickly proves to be near impossible. With debts to pay and mouths to feed, these burdens prove to keep them from achieving their goal and the drama gets tenser as each scene progresses.
This film is very well shot and features wide handheld nature shots. Whenever the characters are outside, the landscape fills the screen with pleasing imagery. The many different angles that allow the viewer to peer down onto the characters add a unique touch and an interesting point of view.
However, at some parts, the film features a lot of shots meant to be introspective to let the viewer reflect on the events that are currently happening, but they tend to drag on longer than necessary.
The supporting characters in the film are very well depicted. Grandma Soonja — played by Yoon Yuh-Joon — plays a very eccentric grandma who David describes as “not a real grandma.” However, Soonja is as real as a grandma can possibly get. She is a surprisingly subversive grandma with her own personality.
Will Patton’s performance as Paul was surprisingly entertaining to watch as well. Paul is an odd evangelical who prays at any given moment. At first, he doesn’t really seem like an important character but as the plot progresses, his role becomes more purposeful.
“Minari” is a film about chasing the American dream and for some, if not most, that dream is becoming more and more than just a dream every day. “Minari” is a great piece of Korean film that deserves at least a viewing.
Availability: Available to stream on Amazon
Star Rating: Four and a half stars out of five
- Drama is very well done and tense
- Beautiful Cinematography
- Characters are intricately depicted
- Nuanced conflicts that leave you guessing
- Slower burn than it needs to be