Language: Korean- English
Duration: 116 Minutes
Story: A Korean-American family moves to Arkansas, Ozarks farm in search of their American dream. Amidst the challenges of starting a new life in the strange and rugged town, the family of five discover the undeniable resilience to overcome those challenges and what really makes a home.
Review: Lee Isaac Chung's drama is a semi-autobiographical take on his upbringing in a family of South Korean immigrants trying to make it in rural United States during the 1980s. The film follows Jacob Yi (Steven Yeun), as he drives towards the new family home surrounded by 50 acres of land. He compares the open land filled with trees and grass to the Biblical Garden of Eden.
Jacob tells his son that he plans to build a big garden just like Eden, but his wife Monica Yi (Han Ye-ri) is quick to remind him that "gardens are small". She walks into the home with wheels and realises this is not the future they had promised each other when they took their marriage vows. She leaves their boxes unpacked, as they would be leaving the place soon enough to somewhere closer to hospitals. The youngest member of the family, five-year-old son David Yi (Alan S Kim) has a weak heart that requires surgery. The boy could collapse any minute and the closest hospital they have is one hour away.
With different opinions, they both fight, even after calling a truce to bring Monica's mother Soonja (Youn Yuh-jung) from South Korea to America. They still fight every time something goes wrong at the farm or at the church, or at their jobs as chicken sexers.
At least their daughter Anne Yi (Noel Cho) and David are looked after by their grandmother. But David doesn't like his grandmother who wears men's underwear, swears and doesn't know how to bake cookies. He quickly refuses to adjust with her at home; "She smells like Korea" he says, but Anne reminds him that he has never visited the country.
Minari focusses on the unwillingness to accept change, whether you are a five-year-old or a mother of two, but it also talks about home and what family members do for each other despite lack of appreciation. Anne often picks up the broken pieces and takes care of the family. While she has a life outside the home with wheels, she never gives up on her mother and her brother. Similarly, Monica takes on the role of taking care of her mother, as she has no siblings.
Steven Yeun and Han Ye-ri fill the screen with their presence! With every fight and stolen glances they make it obvious that the two once hopelessly loved each other. They are torn between choosing their dreams and responsibilities. Youn Yuh-jung as grandma Soonja is exceptional whether she is planting Minari by the riverbank or when she is trying to make up for (feels like) being a burden on her daughter, after suffering from a stroke.
Lee Isaac Chung's family drama is a visual spectacle despite shots of an open farm, a small worn down house and a riverbank filled with snakes. The sombre background score and the contrast colour tone for the house and the farm have much to offer to the audience. The most rewarding part of it all is that even in the worst of situations when you feel the family is at the brink of collapsing, David who has always refrained from running in fear for his life, runs after his grandmother to bring her back home.
Overall, Minari is much like the Korean plant that can go anywhere and can be served up in any dish. The film talks about thriving and being there for each other in good times and hard times. Something that is much needed amid the pandemic.