Drama Foreign

Minari

The grass is always greener when we meet insightful characters.

“Minari” is a passionate film about a family of South Korean immigrants finding their own American Dream. Writer/director Lee Isaac Chung based this movie on his own upbringing, and he provides some vivid characters, who use their English and Korean dialogue to express themselves. The fact that it has been given an American appeal reminds me of the success of “Parasite” winning the Best Picture Oscar. Both these movies are about characters and their environments, and how they learn to thrive on them.

You might want to see this movie, because its stars Steven Yeun and Will Patton are probably the only actors you’ve heard of. But you might also want to see it, because of its Oscar buzz. But I suggest you see it for its true colors and lovely atmosphere.

The patriarch Jacob (Yeun) moves this family from California to Arkansas to begin a farm on its great dirt. They also consist of his doubtful wife named Monica (Yeri Han), a daughter named Anne (Noel Cho), and a toddler named David (Alan S. Kim), who has a weak heart. He’s not supposed to run or lift heavy things, because they could put his life at risk.

They’re not saying “no running” because it’s a generic rule; they’re saying it for his own protection.

The to make some potatoes (that means money BTW), Jacob and Monica get jobs at a local chicken hatchery sexing chicks, while allowing her mother-Grandma Soonja (Youn Yuh-jung)-to stay with them. While Jacob gets help from a Vietnam War vet named Paul (Patton) on developing the farm, Soonja tries to connect with David, whom she’s meeting for the first time.

At first, the boy rejects her, saying she’s “not a grandma,” which peeves off his parents more than her, but eventually he warms up to her. She teaches him about Minari plants, and coddles him when he worries about dying. She even tells Monica that he’s stronger than she thinks. I’m so relieved that she doesn’t become a smart ass with the boy, because that would have been so typical of this genre. Chung writes the grandma and boy with sincerity and love, and Kim and Yuh-jung both have chemistry, and on their own, they play their characters with life.

“Minari” also questions the relationship between Jacob and Monica, about what direction they’re heading in, regarding his farm dreams. She scolds him for thinking money can solve their problems, and the way Han potrays her is mesmerizing. And Yeun also delivers on a strong motivation when his character struggles to make his dream a reality. It’s no typical American movie where screaming has to endure. It’s an American movie about how the American Dream can affect people, and the payoff clinches it.

Lee Isaac Chung paints this film with such passion and art, that you’re able to see these characters through thick and thin. They aren’t written as artificial movie characters; they’re written with a sense of spirit, and all the actors in “Minari” are simply excellent. And how about the cinematography by Lachlan Milne? Does this movie looks great or what? The people, the rivers, the landscapes in Oklahoma where it was filmed, and a fire that happens (when I won’t say).

The movie never jumps to conclusions, and allows us to see the humanity in it all.

Rating: 4 out of 4.

In Select Theaters This Friday

On Demand February 26

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