REVIEW: ‘Minari’

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I kid you not, the second this movie was over, I looked at my mom and said, “I need to call Grandma immediately.”

You may ask why I felt this way, and to that I say: the trailer for this film hides what is arguably the best part of the entire movie, which I will later bring to light. 

“Minari” comes to us from writer/director Lee Isaac Chung with Steven Yeun in the shoes of the protagonist alongside co-stars Yeri Han and Will Patton. This movie shares a tale of a simple Korean family who travels to America in search of the great American dream in Arkansas in the 1980s.

Pretty simple concept right? Well, I’m here to tell you that what you get out of this experience is far more complex and meaningful than the trailer and the little synopsis I just fed you reveal. Minari is anything but simple; it’s more a study of persevering through difficult times, growing up with the promises of great fortune that come with a price, and how, above all else, with family you can overcome all.

Yeun easily gives his best performance we (or at least I) have ever seen from him. Throughout the whole runtime, his performance moved me immensely. This is because his character is tasked with demonstrating a uniquely interesting theme – we have seen fellow Americans searching for the American dream, but what happens when someone foreign to this land goes in search of that same dream?

Alongside a stunning performance from Yeri Han, who plays Yeun’s wife, Monica, both Yuen and Han offer a heartbreaking look at the cost of what happens when anyone from anywhere allow themselves to be clouded with fantasies and thoughts of grandeur: you could potentially lose yourself and those closest to you. 

The perspective of Yeun’s children in the film is also excellently portrayed. For the entirety of this movie, it was both a delight and (at times) a gut punch to watch these Korean kids experience the ups and downs of American culture. 

Watching them have fun with the little things in life awoke a feeling that this stone cold soul hasn’t felt in quite sometime, which was the child-like whimsy of what it feels like to be a kid without the distraction of technology. It took me on a nostalgic trip down memory lane, and the sibling relationship between the children was so sweet and heartwarming.

Will Patton, who played neighbor-turned-close-family-friend, Paul, gave a performance that I imagine will most likely be unsung. This is a shame, because he gives the best performance that I’ve seen him give in quite some time. He isn’t in the movie for as long as the family members, but when he is, he’s outstanding, and it was truly uplifting to see the bond between Patton and Yeun’s characters blossom. 

Another impressive aspect that really caught my eye was the cinematography in this film. There were many beautiful shots taken of the family’s farmland that captured the essence of the isolation they felt, and their expansive natural surroundings was absolute eye candy. I have not heard much praise for this film’s gorgeous shots, and to me, that is rather disappointing due to the fact that this film rivals Chloe Zhao’s “Nomadland” in terms of eye-catching imagery. 

But let’s get to what is, by far, my favorite aspect of the entire film – the dynamic between Yeun’s son David, played by budding child star, Alan S. Kim, and his hilariously feisty and extremely untraditional (by American standards) grandmother, played by Yuh-jung Youn.

Growing up as a child, my grandma and I were very close. I spent a lot of time with her, and those were some of the best moments of my life as a child. Seeing this relationship go from one where David resents his grandma because she doesn’t fit the stereotypically American grandma role, to then becoming one of the best on-screen bonds that I’ve ever seen in a film, ever, really hit home for me to the point where I nearly broke down.

Though I never experienced feelings of resentment the way David does in the beginning of this film toward his grandma, the relationship they begin to develop over time brought back so many warm, fond memories of time spent with my own. Seems like a pretty good justification for wanting to call my grandma, eh? 

To put it straightforwardly to all my readers, I don’t have a negative for this film. Some may feel the ending to this movie is very sudden, abrupt, or dare I say anti-climactic. However, here’s the way I perceived it: the ending represents that though the family is on the cusp of total destruction. It’s when tragedy strikes that you realize you need family the most.

To me, it was the perfect ending that is bittersweet, just like the overall tone of this film. It is now playing in select theaters, as well as streaming on Amazon Prime for $19.99, and when you have the time, please go and watch it. Minari is absolutely flawless and is worth every bit of your time and money.

 

Jury Declares: my first ever A+