Written and directed by Lee Isaac Chung, Minari is the story of a Korean-American family chasing the American dream.
Minari is not your run-of-the-mill, an immigrant family struggling to adapt to the American ways, story. This Oscar-nominated film is a beautiful tale of resilience, family, and running after the American dream.
Cast – Yuh-Jung Youn for the role of Soon-ja was a fantastic decision because she does a great job of playing the role of the grandmother who doesn’t quite understand the American ways. She’s extremely eclectic in her own way and doesn’t play by the rules. Despite not being the ideal granny, her relationship with David grows stronger as you progress into the story. She teaches her grandkids Korean swear words and card games, watches wrestling in her underwear, and doesn’t ask for permission to plant some water celery aka minari that will help her family plant eternal roots, one day. I’d definitely want a grandma like her because along with being badass, she always shows up for the family. Steven Yeun plays the role of the father, Jacob who wants to own a farm of his own to grow Korean vegetables so his children can see him succeed at something and loses sight of his family in the process. Alan Kim as David, the son totally stole the show with his silent portrayal of the youngest child who has a hole in his heart and said nothing most times but noticed everything.
Storyline – The Yi family relocates to Arkansas from California in the 1980s to be more than just chicken sexers. After having lived a fairly comfortable life in California, they find themselves in Arkansas living in the middle of a 50-acre farm in a house on wheels. This transition isn’t smooth for any of the Yi’s and that seeps through in the little things like David and Anne acting out when their grandmother, Soon-ja leaves Korea to come live with them or the parents constantly arguing about moving to Arkansas because it isn’t turning out to be the best decision for the family. A series of unfortunate events leads to all the produce being burned to the ground and in the end, you see the Yi‘s trying their hand at farming, yet again.
What I love – This semi-autobiography is to the point, almost like a documentary. There isn’t a single scene that is dramatized. It has contrasting characters coming together just like every single family. I love how Lee Isaac Chung portrays David’s reaction to everything via silent moments like him wetting the bed, displacing his feelings onto his grandma, and filling her bowl with his pee instead of the drink from the mountains. Soon-ja and David being able to bond over Mountain Dew was such a cute moment, one that instantly brings a smile to your face. While most might not see the end as a happy ending, I love that it feels like a new beginning. Minari, the plant is resilient and grows wherever it’s planted, just like the Yi family.
What I didn’t quite like – It’s extremely slow.
Watch the trailer here
Hard work doesn’t always turn into success and with Minari, Lee Isaac Chung tries to show human lives chasing after the dream, even if they have to start from scratch, all over again.