“A Korean family starts a farm in 1980s Arkansas.”

Director: Lee Isaac Chiung
Writer: Lee Isaac Chung
Staring: Steven Yeun, Yeri Han, Alan S. Kim, Noel Cho, Yuh-Jung Youn
Streaming: Vudu Rental
Release Date: February 12, 2021

Wrapping my thoughts around Minari, it’s hard to not touch on everything that everyone has said already. Minari is a real, heartfelt and all-to-real story of a family in the 1980s trying to accomplish the American Dream on a farm in Arkansas. This is a semi-biographical story of writer and director Lee Isaac Chung and it’s easy to see the personal experiences squeezed into the script. The touchstones of the story are cemented in realism.

The crux of the story is how a family tries adapting to a new environment while struggling to get a solid life foundation. Jacob (Steven Yeun), the father of the family, is attempting to establish a life on a farm that is filled with ambition and possible growth. Monica (Yeri Han), Jacob’s wife, is skeptical of Jacob’s dream. The struggles of their new life wear on her mentally and the marriage she shares becomes strained. The audience avatar and emotional fulcrum of the movie is the young son, David (Alan S. KIm). His older sister, Anne (Noel Cho), is steadfast and even keeled; she is bearing the brunt of trying to keep everyone sane despite her young age.

Minari hits its emotional gas pedal when Monica’s mother, Soonja (Yuh-Jung Youn), makes her presence known. Youn’s performance is outstanding and her role within the story is crucial. She brings levity and heart to a story that forces the audience to reflect on some hard topics. Soonja is confident in herself and maintains a positive outlook on her grandchildren’s scenario; she is also there to talk Monica off the ledge when things are getting really bad.

Lee Isaac Chung’s script isn’t flower but it is profound. Communication comes in many different ways and credit to Steven Yeun for using his slump shoulders and tired expressions to communicate not only his fatigued body but also exhaustion at trying to make his marriage work.

I don’t know if Chung lived on a farm himself, but the job Steven is trying to excel at is a symbol of his marriage. Steve is trying to cultivate a strong relationship and build a strong future where things can ripen, but there are constant things getting in the way. In the movie, Steven and his partner Paul (Will Patton) have to deal with no water, extreme heat and backtracking potential buyers. Monica and Steven also run into burdens in their relationship, including but not limited to the move to Arkansas, Soonja moving in to live with them and David’s heart murmur.

What also makes Minari‘s screenplay is how the audience can relate to every character and where they are coming from. Steve wants to improve he and his family’s life, raising their ceiling in terms of potential wealth and injecting some self-motivation to achieve the American dream. Monica is scared of change and how the gambles being taken are affecting their marriage and their children. Anne wants some normality and is trying to act like a rock to be there for her parents because that may be the way for her to be noticed by them. David is a kid who has preconceived notions of family is confused as to what’s happening around him, in particular his grandma who is abnormal to classic suburbia.

You will laugh during certain segments of Minari, but for the most part you’ll be gripping your pillow and begging for things to work out. The honesty of the conversations is scary. It reminds me of Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy arguing in Before Midnight (2013).

Minari was nominated for six total Academy Awards, but the only award winner was the deserving Yuh-Jung Youn. Award distributors across the globe were happy with Minari and Yuh-Jung Youn wracked in multiple awards for her performance. It’s safe to say that her award speeches at other award ceremonies did not match hers at the Oscars when she was making jokes about being around Brad Pitt.

STANKO RATING: B+ (4.0/5 Stars)


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