Opening 15 Jul 2021
Driving through rich, tree lined rustic nature and barely containing his excitement, Jacob (Steven Yeun) soothes Monica’s (Han Ye-ri) misgivings as they approach their new Ozark home. Even Anne (Noel Kate Cho) and David (Alan Kim), hot and tired after the long trip are quiet, overcome by curiosity. This is Jacob’s dream-strategy: their own Arkansas farmland and growing Korean produce for nearby big-city markets. In 1983s America, everything is possible. The reality, however, falls short. Settling into jobs at a chicken hatchery, as well Jacob farms with help from a local, Paul (Will Patton), whose ideas are sometimes weird, often thought-provoking, yet Paul is good-natured, and likes kimchee. Attending church helps them blend into the community and, David makes a friend (Jacob Wade). Still, Monica worries about costs, David’s condition, and misses California. To ease her anxiousness Monica’s mother in Korea is sent for. Soon-ja’s (scene-stealing Youn Yuh-jung) arrival is invigorating, and, off-putting for David sharing his bedroom. Before long, Soon-ja is giving the kids an education in life, while her adventuresomeness gains their hearts. When tragedy does strike, as it can, its binding quality turns into a blessing that more than makes up for it.
Writer-director Lee Isaac Chung’s Oscar® nominated film is endearing and grounded in personal history; he worried about his family’s reaction without reason, considering the tenacious minari (an edible water celery) used in the film is from his dad’s Missouri crop. The unshakeable resolve implied in the eponymous film title is deeply rooted in the characters in his thought-provoking screenplay. He shows immigrants’ feelings of isolation and culture shock, and how they grapple with preserving traditions. Also, their hard work, and belief, perhaps misguided, in the American dream its guarantee everything will be O.K. Minari’s unabashedly faith-based overtones imply respectful coexistence with nature—and different forms of practicing religion—and one’s ability in it. Cinematographer Lachlan Milne, Harry Yoon’s editing, Yong Ok Lee’s production design, and Emile Mosseri’s music is the rain that helps propagate Minari’s lush, spellbinding originality. While the film’s big heartedness is uplifting, it is rooted in fine, sensitive storytelling. (Marinell Haegelin)