Director Lee Issac Chung brings his childhood story to the screen with the semi-autobiographical film Minari, which has already picked up a Golden Globe for best foreign film and a Critics Choice Award for best young actor for Alan Kim. In the 1980s, Korean family Monica (Han Ye-ri) and Jacob Yi (Steven Yeun) move from California to Arkansas with their two children, Anne (Noel Kate Cho) and David (Kim) to start a farm selling produce to Korean retailers in the area. The family’s strength and trust in each other is tested to extreme measures. Jacob will not give up on his dream and return to factory work (checking the sex of chicks) for the rest of his life; Monica worries for the family’s financial safety and David’s health, as he has a heart murmur.
The family are subjected to challenge after challenge. As Jacob struggles to get his business off the ground, Monica’s mother (Youn Yuh-jung) comes from Korea to stay with them, which brings more difficulty than convenience, and Anne and David must sit and watch as the adults in their lives scream, shout and pretend that all is well. They attempt to mix with their community, who appear to be welcoming but seethe with ignorant stereotypes and offensive preconceptions. One child asks David, “Why is your face so flat?”. The only outsider they befriend is a well-meaning but extreme Christian zealot, Paul (an exceptional performance by Will Patton), who helps Jacob on the farm when he is not speaking in tongues or carrying a cross down main roads.
This film is a child’s story – though goes into depth with all its characters, it is experienced from David’s perspective. Chung’s contrasting camerawork on the adults and on David manages to create some distance between the audience and the parents, recalling the way children view their mothers and fathers. The result encapsulates the loneliness, frustration and confusion of being a child, as well as the vulnerability of being a parent, reacting to the smallest of gestures because sometimes those are the ones that mean the most.
There is no outstanding performance as each actor is as wonderful as the next, bringing tragedy, joy and humanity to their characters in every scene. Minari transcends race, gender and class. Viewers from all over the world will find something to identify with in this magnificent picture.
Minari is released digitally on demand on 19th March 2021.
Watch the trailer for Minari here: