The Stream: While the movie starts off slow, it picks up steam when Grandma shows up.
The Big Screen: The cast gels like a family should.
The Final Bill: All the elements come together to tell this inspirational and tender family drama.– Trip Fontaine
Director: Lee Isaac Chung
Writers: Lee Isaac Chung
Stars: Steven Yeun, Yeri Han, Alan S. Kim | See full cast & crew »
Runtime: 1 hour 50 minutes
Platform: Released February 12, 2021
Minari was nominated for 6 Academy Awards this week, including Best Picture; so, I had to see what all the hype was about. Minari has been in select theaters for about a month and is available for rent on demand, but I can’t say that I had heard much about the film until recently. Written and directed by Lee Isaac Chung, who received nominations for both, Minari tells the story of a Korean-American family that relocates from California to a farm in Arkansas in the 1980s. The father, Jacob Yi (Steven Yeun), has a plan to grow Korean vegetables in order to set his family on a path to the American Dream; and the mother, Monica (Yeri Han), strives to improve her skills as a chicken sexer to support the family as she continues to be skeptical of Jacob’s ambitions. The promotion for this film says that this is the movie we need right now. We shall see.
It is obvious that this is a personal story for Lee Isaac Chung. The family dynamics are depicted very tenderly, and although there are differences and arguments between the parents, neither is painted as a villain. Both Jacob and Monica want what’s best for their family. We see much of the film through the eyes of the youngest Yi family member, David, who is played by Alan Kim in a remarkable performance for such a young child. There is a newness of the Arkansas landscape and the distant surrounding community that they all have to get acclimated to. While the plot of Minari is pretty basic – just following whether Jacob will be successful in establishing his farm, once Monica’s mother (Youn Yuh-jung) shows up a new energy and conflict is brought to the film.
All the parts of Minari come together to create a satisfying whole. Chung focuses on the members of the family such that each one has a personality and a stake in what’s happening. The cast that was brought together do great work. I certainly understand why Yeun and Yuh-jung were nominated for their acting and why Alan Kim will be a kid popping up in other movies in the future. Moreover, the lush landscapes of rural Arkansas look very inviting and the score heightens the emotional heft of the movie. For me, Minari was surprisingly enjoyable for an otherwise straightforward family drama.
In conclusion, Minari is tender and emotional. More than ever, it does seem like it could be the movie we need right now. It reminds all of us about the typical American family that just wants its piece of the American Dream. Chung’s personal touches make Minari enjoyable and impactful. If you get a chance, get a big box of popcorn and watch this film.