Minari is exactly the kind of movie I’m glad I was able to finally return to theaters for. It’s quiet, understated, and something that I could easily see myself sliding attention away from if I weren’t in a theater free from the distraction of my phone, my dogs, my snacks, and a hundred other things that would have stolen the magic of seeing this movie away. It’s a simple story of a Korean family who have recently moved from California to rural Arkansas during the latter part of the Reagan administration. Father Jacob (Steven Yeun) has a dream of being a farmer, bringing Korean vegetables to the middle of the country and grabbing ahold of the American dream with his own two hands and lots of hard work. His wife, Monica (Yeri Han), is the pragmatist of the family who is deeply unhappy with the move. Daughter Anne (Noel Cho) and son David (Alan S. Kim, an incredible standout) round out the family unit until Monica’s mother (Yuh-jung Youn) moves in with them. She’s not like a regular grandma, she’s a cool grandma who plays cards and smokes and curses while watching wrestling, and her presence is a fantastic addition to the family dynamic.
This is a film that seems very simple on the surface, allows for some rich metaphorical interpretation, and offers some even meatier subtext beyond the standard symbolism - Lee Isaac Chung was as careful with his direction as with his script, and I was reminded of being in AP English trying to come up with Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3 questions. This is the kind of film that invites that kind of analysis. I’m left with a number of impressions - gorgeous cinematography of the wide open spaces of rural Arkansas bathed in golden sun. The tension between assimilating and perpetuating your culture is evident in every argument Jacob and Monica have, as well as in the setbacks Jacob experiences trying to grow non-native plants in the harsh Arkansas summer. The simple wisdom of grandma warning David about snakes: “Sometimes things that hide are more dangerous” combined with how devastating the unspoken tension between Jacob and Monica is when it finally comes to the surface. All of the performances are fantastic, subtle and quietly overwhelming as the family grows apart and comes together again and again. Did I Cry? The climax of this movie was so swift and complete in its devastation that I couldn’t help sobbing through the final 10 minutes. This is absolutely gorgeous and sweet and sad and ultimately a powerful testament to what it means to be a family, and I highly recommend it.
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Gura: I am a simple woman. I enter the kitchen. I eat four servings of bread products. I leave.
Noel: It's one serving if you serve all of it to yourself at once.
Gure: I like the way you think, friend.
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