Minari — A Film Review

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The product of Lee Isaac Chung’s script, “Minari“, opens with a simple but greatly moving motif: a rusty family car moving through a verdant land of fields and forestland, following a vehicle dressed in white to their promised land. A little on the nose perhaps, but nonetheless powerful. It introduces the consistent themes throughout the story and introduces us to the stunning cinematography that accompanies the actors, most of whom were nominated for awards in the face of their performance. It is a stunning piece that incorporates emotion and imagery together in equal parts, creating a memorable and insightful story. 

“A tender and sweeping story about what roots us, 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.” 

In Arkansas, Jacob begins a new life in a solitary field with his family, which plans to turn into a farm that will support them, an idealism of the American Dream. Nevertheless, the fresh start sparks many domestic conflicts—many of which have long since been a part of the family’s life. 

Carefully crafted tension is relieved by shots of the atmospheric Arkansas environment, accompanied by a quiet score that adds small details to the film’s scenes. There’s never a moment of hesitation in the story as it gracefully leaps from scene to scene, from the church to the green fields to the grim chicken sexing farm. While not only practically different, there’s a distinct thematic difference between these scenes 

The story is carefully paced, indulging in the family’s tensions for just long enough to garner empathy while never losing sight of the bigger picture. It challenges the viewer with antagonism and rebuttals of the family’s faith, then reaching ever-increasing triumphs until a heart-breaking moment late into the film, with just 15 minutes left. The cinematic achievements are accentuated by another factor; the whole film was shot in 25 days. 

Standout performances come from Alan Kim as David Yi and Yuh-Jung Youn as Soonja; working with an inspiring script, David Yi never fails to uplift and inspire in even the most challenging times as a carefree child whose heart condition (an external force) affects his life.

Lee Isaac Chung has written and directed a heartfelt story, brimming with quiet determination and resilience at its core. The cast does well to enhance a strong story, performing in a drama that reaches far beyond its humble roots and into the viewers’ hearts.  

A scene that depicts the film at its best is when David gets a heart check-up: his father is late as he tries to find a seller for his new farm goods, causing a heart-breaking response from Monica. He cannot go forward as the pioneer of the family without leaving everything behind. It is as emotional as any part of the story, and as the doctor says: “Keep doing what you’re doing”. It’s a message that transcends the film and startles the viewer, reminding us of the film’s importance.