Minari (2020)

A24 has been a bastion of light among the world of independent cinema for several years now. They have consistently released some of the best films of the year, while not losing focus on the ideals of the independent theater. Minari is another triumphant success for the movie company.

Minari follows the life experiences of a Korean family that has moved to a small farm in Arkansas. Steven Yeun played Jacob Yi, a highly successful chick sexer who decided that a change of lifestyle was necessary for his family. His wife, Monica (Yeri Han) was not enthused with the move and this caused some friction among the couple. Adding to the worries was the health of their youngest of two children David (Alan S. Kim), whose heart flutter was a concern for the family.

In order to help out with the family, Monica’s mother, Soonja (Yuh-Jung Youn) comes from Korea, but she was not quite the grandmotherly-type. Soonja clashed with David’s expectations of what a grandmother was supposed to be like.

As with many independent movies, the film is more of a series of scenes from the characters’ lives than a structured story narrative. In this case, the performances from this group of actors really standout from the calm and quiet storytelling. Steven Yeun, best known for his role as Glenn from the Walking Dead, carries his character with such a pride and determination despite the struggles and the problems facing him from his choice for his family. The relationship between Jacob and Monica was strained seriously, but there was always the feeling of love with them.

The standout performance though is clearly that of Yuh-Jung Youn. When she arrived as Grandma, a foul-mouthed, brash woman, everyone, especially David, are on their toes. Yuh-Jung Youn is amazing and you can not take your eyes off of her. You are never sure what she was going to do next and she brought a humor and a passion to the story. Her developing relationship with David is a strength of the film, and the results are human as can be.

Directed beautifully by Lee Isaac Chung, Minari is one of the leading candidates for Oscar glory this year. It was a film that I enjoyed very much. It provided a glance at the immigrant life and the attempt at the American dream.

4 stars

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