A monumentally moving and all-round heart-warming piece of cinema, writer-director Lee Isaac Chung’s semi-autobiographical drama Minari is an intimate snapshot of family life. Often hilarious and frequently touching, the feature sees Korean immigrants Monica (Yeri Han) and Jacob Yi (Steven Yeun) move from California to rural Arkansas with their children Anne (Noel Kate Cho) and David (the adorable Alan Kim), who has a heart murmur. The dream is to start a farm growing Korean vegetables to sell to other Korean immigrants; the reality is a trailer in an empty field isolated from society, while the couple must keep their jobs sexing chicks to support their family.
With the added stress of their son’s condition, they agree to have Monica’s mother, Soon-ja (Yuh-Jung Youn) stay with them to help look after the kids. The central cast do an excellent job of winning over audiences from the opening scene, but it’s with the arrival of Youn that Minari truly comes into its own. Stealing the spotlight whenever she appears on screen (and especially when she shares it with young Kim), Youn’s joyous performance is what gives this film most of its spark. Effortlessly moving from comedic to tender, the actress is utterly delightful and she only gets better as the story goes on.
While a large focus of Chung’s script centres on the relationship between David and his grandmother, it is so much more. It’s about a family trying to find their place in the world, a couple doing what they can to provide even if it drives them apart, connecting to one’s roots, and a father determined to see his dreams come to fruition. Given the sheer scale and ambition of the themes tackled here, it’s testament to Chung’s vision that he conveys everything so brilliantly on such a comparably small scale. It really is the little moments that make the biggest differences.
Each character grows more endearing as the viewer gets to know them closely, and one finds oneself wishing nothing more than for this family to succeed. When things do get hard, the impact is so much more devastating, but the result is truly euphoric highs. Chung’s film is nothing short of spectacular.
Minari is screened at Glasgow Film Festival on 24th February 2021 and released digitally on demand on 19th March 2021.
Read more reviews from our Glasgow Film Festival 2021 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Glasgow Film Festival website here.
Watch the trailer for Minari here: