Minari (2020). Film review of the drama about a Korean farming family

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Drama

image four star rating very good lots to enjoy

Film review by Jason Day of Minari, the 2020 drama about a young Korean family who move to Arkansas to begin a new life as land-owning farmers. Starring Steven Yeun and Yeri Han, directed by Lee Isaac Chung.

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Synopsis

In spite of his wife Monica’s (Yeri Han) objections, headstrong Korean father Jacob (Steven Yeun) uproots his working-class family from their Los Angeles home and moves to rural Arkansas. He has bought a plot of land that he hopes to tend and grow traditional Korean fruit and vegetables for what he perceives to be a burgeoning market with the immigrant population. The initial rose-tinted view of his family’s new life quickly changes as difficulties are heaped upon them, including the arrival of his unconventional mother-in-law (Yuh-Jung Youn).

Review, by @Reelreviewer

I’m so surprised…the British can be a very snobbish people!

Actress Yuh-Jung Youn on winning the BAFTA for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Minari.

From Brad Pitt’s Plan B studio comes this very low-key yet laden with details, observational family piece.

Writer-director Lee Isaac Chung turns his camera/microscope on the minutiae of everyday life, but keeps the scope of the piece broad so we see how his little family slots into the bigger events outside their home on wheels.

Father Yeun’s big dreaming can only lead to dashed hopes, at least as far as his resolutely sensible wife would have it. Actress Han says enough with one witheringly cold stare about what Monica feels about their new dirt-road existence. She doesn’t need scolding words, but writer Chung provides them for her so we are in no doubt how far her husband has sunk in her estimations.

Further evidence of this is their new group of ‘friends’. White women at their new church welcome their Korean neighbours with welcome arms and even more open collection bowls (that Grandma nicks a note out of), but patronise Monica with predictably, racially ignorant chitchat.

The rest of this motley crew of ‘pals’, so redolent of the greed and corruption in the good ole U.S. of A, include a bank official who offers to look after Yeun’s family providing they borrow plenty of $ from him and Patton as a hard-working, but unbalanced farmhand. Patton is an outcast and the only help Yeun can afford and through his milk bottle lens spectacles, we see the family’s increasingly desperate life reflected and magnified.

Yuh-Jung Youn as the sweary, gambling grandma might have snaffled the acting headlines (and a recent BAFTA award), but it’s the much quieter Kim and Cho as the children who I feel have the better roles in the movie. Indeed, Kim was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor award at the same BAFTA ceremony (he lost to a very deserved winner, Daniel Kaluuya for his fiery turn in Judas and the Black Messiah).

Cast & credits

Director: Lee Isaac Chung. 1hr 55 mins/115 mins. Plan B Entertainment. (12).

Producer: Christina Oh.
Writer: Lee Isaac Chung.
Camera: Lachlan Milne.
Music: Emile Mosseri.
Sets: Yong Ok Lee.

Steven Yeun, Yeri Han, Alan S. Kim, Noel Cho, Yuh-Jung Youn, Will Patton, Darryl Cox, Esther Moon, Ben Hall, Eric Starkey, Jacob M. Wade, James Carroll.

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