"Minari" stars Steven Yeun, Han Ye-ri, Alan Kim, Noel Kate Cho, Youn Yuh-jung, and Will Patton. Released on February 12, 2021, the film has a Korean-American family running a farm in Arkansas.
The film was written and directed by Lee Isaac Chung, who also directed "Munyurangabo", "Lucky Life", "Abigail Harm", and "I Have Seen My Last Born". It's no surprise that some of us want to get away from the busy streets and noisy technology and go back to rural living. Nowadays, it seems to be a lot harder than it looks, but back then, it's nothing but a cakewalk. However, it still has its share of issues. This is a film that I knew absolutely nothing about aside from its poster and the rave reviews it's been getting since its Sundance debut. But I was willing to see it anyway because it's another awards contender, and it looks like it could be another good drama. As of this writing, "Minari" has been nominated for 10 Critics' Choice Awards and only one Golden Globe Award, which is for Best Foreign Language Film. Yes, a film that involves a family who speaks both English and Korean and takes place in America got nominated for Best Foreign Language Film and nothing else. Not even a Best Drama nomination. That has to be rough for the filmmakers and the people who support foreign films. But I don't want to waste your time talking about the awards process. That's not why you're here. You're here to read my take on one of the best-reviewed movies of last year, which is also my addition to my "2021 Reviews" collection. I managed to watch the film via a virtual screening from A24's official website since my closest theater couldn't get it. It didn't cost much to watch it on my computer as a virtual ticket only costs 20 dollars, which is another massive win for me. If you need another reason why A24 is the indie studio that's worth supporting, here you go. With that said, let's see if this drama is another awards contender that deserves the praise it's been getting.
The story centers on the Yi family: father Jacob (Yeun), mother Monica (Ye-ri), and their two kids David (Kim) and Anne (Cho). They moved from California to rural Arkansas in the 1980s, where Jacob plans to grow Korean produce to sell to various vendors in Dallas. The film follows the family as they attempt to adjust to their new lifestyle while encountering numerous issues, such as the arrival of Monica's mother, Soon-ja (Yuh-jung), and David's heart condition. Similar to "Nomadland", "Minari" is the type of film you would watch to explore a part of everyday life, to examine the realism of people's way of life. In this case, it's a Korean family who struggles with rural living in America. Based on Lee Isaac Chung's childhood growing up on a farm, the film painted an authentic and tenderhearted portrait of a family's uncertainty towards their new lifestyle as they slowly start to drift apart. It's a subtle portrait, but it's also a suitably captivating one. Chung has successfully crafted a masterful work of cinematic art that relies only on simplistic realism storytelling rather than style. It not only reminded me why films like these need to be supported, but it also represented the importance of family in the face of concern. The main cast was stellar in their roles, most notably Steven Yeun and Han Ye-ri as Jacob and Monica. These two actors captured their characters' sympathetic personalities in a practically endearing and convincingly emotional way. Alan Kim and Youn Yuh-jung were also extremely likable in their roles as David and Soon-ja, respectively. In addition to Jacob growing produce, the film also focuses on the relationship between David and Soon-ja, who arrives from Korea to stay with the family. That section alone was the central part of the film's heartwarming nature, and it was undoubtedly adorable to witness. Chung made this relationship feel natural by balancing the humor and the drama without making the scenario too sappy for his audience. It's funny, it's compelling, and it's understandably emotive. Will Patton also did a great job with his performance as Paul, a religious man who assists Jacob with the farm. The film's cinematography was delightfully sublime as it captured the beauty of the environments and the characters with grace and charm. I would even say that it looked as beautiful as the cinematography in "Nomadland". You can't blame the guy who loves looking at majestic sceneries on the screen.
Overall, "Minari" achieves the American Dream by portraying a beautiful and heartfelt tale of family and assimilation in rural America. Extremely well-acted, respectably directed, and gorgeously shot, the film is a superb piece of cinema that reminds us what's important in life. It's a shame that the Golden Globes screwed up by nominating this "American" film for Best Foreign Language Film. The film honestly should've gotten more respect than that. Here's hoping it will get lucky at the Critics' Choice Awards and possibly the Academy Awards. If you love slice-of-life films, then you might enjoy this one as well.