Minari, directed by the great and powerful Lee Issac Chung is set in 1980s Arkansas. A Korean-American family moves into an Arkansas farm in search of their own American dream. Amidst the challenges of this new life in the strange and rugged Ozarks, they discover the undeniable resilience of family and what really makes a home.
This film had great performances all around. Steven Yuen leads the charge by his excellent portrayal of a hardworking and skilled father who is at a crossroads in his life; Jacob (his character) wants to set an example for his family by showing them how he can make a living from something he genuinely passionate about i.e. farming. However, this might at come at the cost of breaking up his own family. We never actually learn the family name of this household, which ironically brings us closer to the characters because we associate them only with their first names; similiar to how we associate our close family & friends. The two kids in this family were very adorable, while grandma brought comedic relief in the right moments.
The plot of Minari was very linear and non-convoluted. The film was marketed to capture the immigrant experience in the US, from the perspective of an Asian family. Though it does do so to an extent, the message I took from this movie was the importance of maintaining a good family dynamic, and supporting each other even in the most difficult moments. Minari is also one of only a handful of films whose premise is based on farming. I know absolutely nothing about agriculture and always found the subject to be quite tranquilizing. However, the well written characters and their dynamic between each other kept me invested in the efforts to start a farm.
From a filmmaking perspective, Minari was glorious to look at. A wide angle 2.39 : 1 aspect ratio was used, which beautifully captured the vibrant and bold green/yellow farmlands of rural Arkansas. The dialogue was also sharp and conversational. The camerawork utilized loads of close-up shots of the characters to reveal their facial stubbles, individual hairs, wrinkles, makeup, age spots etc. I can’t point out anything that was outrageously wrong about this movie; it was a calming and pleasant vibe. However, if I were to be slightly critical, there were no real surprises in the plot. I couldn’t identify that one scene or a groundbreaking performance that completely subverted my expectations. I was going into Minari expecting a well edited and crafted story and received just that.