Minari Review – Tender, Truthful Storytelling, Award Worthy

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Minari, from A24 and Plan B Production, presents a story of survival as a family of immigrants leave the familiar and put down roots in a tiny Arkansas town to build their own piece of the American dream.

Presented at the Denver Film Festival, Minari is directed and written by Lee Isaac Chung and stars Steven Yeun, Yeri Han, Alan S. Kim, Noel Cho, and Yun-Jung-Young with Will Patton.

The film begins as the camera travels down a country road, further, and even further leaving the highway, the city and even the nearest town in the rearview. They roll up to an opening where a double-wide trailer, still on wheels, sits.

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As they observe their new home, Jacob, a stern traditional father, played by Steven Yeun, and Monica, his wife, played by Yeri Han, each have a different vision of the possibility. The children, David played by Alan S. Kim, and Anne, played by Noel Cho are more resilient and settle into daily life.

With enthusiasm low for their new home Jacob and Monica are struggling through a difficult time in their marriage and the new house on wheels, with all its flaws, and the struggle of leaving California where essentially we find out, Jacob worked for ten years and had no more than the day he began.

They work at a hatchery, where they separate the males from the females, earning enough to manage while he build his dream of a fifty acre farm to become the mid-western supplier of Korean vegetables to the increasing immigrant population.

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Facing the challenges of rural American, we meet along the way Holy Spirit guided born-again Paul, played by Will Patton, who becomes Jacob's farm hand. Also the local diviner who uses a divining rod to find water on the family property. As it is the Mid-west, they face harsh weather, tornados, a small community of Korean Americans, little life outside the effort of building a future.

So, they decide to bring her mother, Soonja/Grandma, played by Yun-Jung Young, to rural Arkansas who speaks little English and is sly, foul-mouthed, but incredibly loving. As it is the first time the children meet their Grandma, the dynamics of the house change as she doesn't fit the grandma mold.

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Our young David, who has a heart murmur, is now in competition for his mother's affection and his antics become scene stealers. 

We can see through the growth of the vegetables the passing of time and, just like the crops the family slowly takes root in the Ozarks. They begin to attend a local church, the kids make friends, and they warm up to their Grandma, as they wander through the property.

Of course, life has a way of turning even the best of moments into short-lived peaks followed by slow, long valleys.

Minari, the true story of the filmmaker Lee Isaac Chang's childhood as his family left California and moved to Arkansas so his father Jacob could build a farm, is told with truth, love, and tenderness.

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The cast delivers award winning performances. With the film in limited availability it is already receiving critical acclaim for the ensemble which cohesively meld together to create a seamless portrait. The challenge with children is a natural upstaging and with Alan S. Kim, and Noel Cho Minari is no different.

Yun-Jung Young, who plays Soonja/Grandma, delivers a stunning, intelligent, and sharp Academy Award portrayal. Unknown to American audiences, Ms. Young is an award-winning Korean actress. She delivers a dramatic, and vivid performance.

Minari, a tender and triumphant film, may not produce the sweep of last year's Asian winner and the performances of Steven Yuen and Yun-Jung Young, are jarring, real, and authentic and should propel them effortlessly into Awards season.

This film is sponsored by the Colorado Dragon Film Festival and currently showing at the Denver Film Festival, Minari can be accessed via this link. See it.

RUNTIME - 115 minutes

LANGUAGE - Korean, English


PRODUCER - Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Christina Oh

CAST - Steven Yuen, Yeri Han, Alan Kim, Noel Kate Cho, Scott Haze, Yuh-Jung Youn


EDITOR - Harry Yoon

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