In Minari, a Korean family travels from California to build a new homestead in Arkansas; in hopes that they’ll be able to create a farm and make a decent living selling their culture’s food to local markets. This premise, however, is merely a clothesline for writer/director Lee Isaac Chung to hang up different moments in this family’s life that will, eventually, piece together their memories and future.
Usually it’s easy to pin down what key factors are responsible for a movie’s authenticity. In the case of Minari, it’s simply a magical blend of everything working together both on screen and behind the camera. The fantastic ensemble has such a natural chemistry with each other, which bodes well for the film’s wholesomeness. The primary loving marriage between Jacob (Steven Yeun) and Monica (Yeri Han) isn’t all sunshine as they struggle to see eye to eye on the big move to Arkansas and Jacob’s problematic integrity behind his dream of building a family business. They hold themselves together in hopes for a fruitful future (no pun intended), as well as for the sake of their children David and Anne (Alan Kim, Noel Kate Cho).
While Monica gets settled in and Jacob works on the agricultural set-up with an enigmatic but open-hearted neighbour (Will Patton), the film also focuses on the relationship between David and his visiting grandmother (Yuh-jung Youn) of whom he’s never met. Not only do the performances between Kim and Youn find their own particular quirky and sweet camaraderie, but the filmmaker mines untapped genuine sincerity from this sub-dynamic. Either Lee Isaac Chung is pulling from personal childhood experience and translating to the screen flawlessly, or the filmmaker has an incredible sense for human connectivity. Maybe it’s both, and maybe it’s another miracle this very special movie has to offer.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie