Minari Dec 19, 2020 14:28:04 GMT -5
Post by StevePulaski on Dec 19, 2020 14:28:04 GMT -5
Directed by: Lee Isaac Chung
Directed by: Lee Isaac Chung
NOTE: Minari will see a theatrical release on February 12, 2021 with a video-on-demand release following on February 26th.
Tenderly made and textured with Malickian landscapes, Lee Isaac Chung's Minari is a humanist marvel. It boasts many moments where feeling and empathy supersede dramatic theatrics. Above all, it deals with the very real effects of assimilation: both of a family coming to America intent on harvesting their own American dream and a man becoming one with his family. It's the kind of film that's gentle on the soul yet lingers in the mind.
We're plunged into rural Arkansas during the Reagan-era 1980s where the Yi family has uprooted from California. One look at the tight-knit Korean family and you can tell they've adopted American culture in subtle yet staple ways. Jacob (Steven Yeun, The Walking Dead), the patriarch, is a lanky man with a patterned collar shirt and jeans while his young son, David (the adorable Alan Kim), rocks cowboy boots. They're a family of immigrants who have moved to Arkansas in order for Jacob to capitalize on his dream of farming Korean vegetables on quality American soil.
Their new home is a mobile trailer overlooking acres of farmland. This dismays Jacob's wife Monica (Han Ye-ri), who longs for city-life with accessible resources for her and her children. Here, the closest hospital is an hour away; an unnerving thought with David's heart condition. The couple makes their living as chicken sexers (those who separate baby chicks by gender), and Monica's mother Soon-ja (Youn Yuh-jung) cares for David and his older sister Anne (Noel Kate Cho). "You're not a real grandma," David keeps insisting, as Soon-ja doesn't know how to bake, is a vulgar card-player, and "smells like Korea." Nonetheless, she withstands such juvenile torment and tries to instill some tenderness into the children.
Chung's film gets its name from a resilient Korean herb that has healing qualities and can blossom wherever it's planted. It's a fitting encapsulation for a film about a domestic family that adopts a newfound nomadic life at the expense of convenience. Their only neighbor of note is Paul (Will Patton), an eccentric, God-fearing man of principle and hard-work, who also serves as a neighborhood pastor. On Sundays, he lugs a giant cross down a lonely highway for his services. The Yi family passes him one morning and offers him a ride, for which he declines despite being appreciative. It's refreshing if nothing else to see representation of southerners not cast in close-minded nor racist manner. Paul is Christlike in his gratefulness for the opportunity to work alongside Jacob in the fields, even if he isn't so keen on Jacob smoking cigarettes.
Minari is immaculate in how it makes the most with minimal flare. Cinematographer Lachlan Milne adopts an angelic quality to the outdoor scenes that are kissed by romantic sunlight and faint colors. Baked into the fabric of the film are metaphors, such as the family's struggle to obtain consistent water — a foundational element of growth. While they struggle with assimilating to American life, questioning whether or not they should seek out a Korean church to attend, Jacob grapples with being a reliable, emotionally present husband and father. He obviously loves his wife and children, but for a decade he's made his money staring at the asses of chickens. He's not only attempting to forge a new way of living, but commit to something that he himself entirely owns and controls. There's nothing more American than that.
However, so much of Minari is dedicated to David, brought to life by the wide-eyed, cute-as-a-button Alan Kim. He's the rare amount of youthful and precocious with his sass. "I'm not pretty, I'm good-looking," he barks at his grandmother upon receiving what was thought to be a compliment. Yeun brings out the best in Kim in their scenes together, specifically after dad's successful shoveling creates a well and the two howl in glee.
Minari is a film of soft moments that amount to a cornucopia of emotional resonance without ever being aggressively sentimental. It's lifelike in the way it can break your heart, specifically in its climax, yet tape it back together by way of showing the resilience of the human spirit and the connective tissue that holds this family together. Galvanized by arresting performances and narrative themes most can relate to — particularly immigrants — there may not be a more universally human film released this year.
Starring: Steven Yeun, Alan Kim, Han Ye-ri, Youn Yuh-jung, Noel Kate Cho, and Will Patton. Directed by: Lee Isaac Chung.