Critically acclaimed and beloved by audiences worldwide, Minari follows a Korean-American family as they move to a tiny Arkansas farm in search of their own American Dream.
“This isn’t what you promised,” says Monica (Yeri Han) in dismay as the Yi family arrives at their new home. The young immigrant family have upended their lives in California to pursue patriarch Jacob’s (Steven Yuen) dream of farming the land in the rugged Ozarks, however a rickety mobile home and unforgiving terrain are the first hints that pastoral bliss will not come easily.
Despite the challenges of their rustic new life, Yi siblings Anne (Noel Kate Cho) and David (Alan Kim, delightful at just 7 years old) adjust as best they can, and their tender efforts to dissolve the tension between their parents are a delicate balance of humour and heartache.
The arrival of grandmother Soonja (Korean industry veteran Yuh-Jung Youn, who swept the awards circuit for this role, culminating in an historic Oscar win for Best Supporting Actress) from Korea simultaneously stabilises and shakes-up the Yi family dynamic. Soonja is the opposite of a good American grandmother – she watches TV in her underwear, takes up half of David’s bedroom, and, unforgivably, “She smells like Korea!” as David wails in despair.
Walking, never running (due to a heart defect), in child-sized cowboy boots, David’s perspective of the events in Minari shows the undeniable resilience of family and what really makes a home. Parallels have been drawn between Minari and the social dramas of Hirokazu Kore-eda, as both filmmakers lend an authentic emotional gravity to the lives of children.
Made on a $2 million budget and drawing heavily from writer-director Lee Isaac Chung’s early life, when his family went through a similar process of uprooting their lives and moving to the country, Minari is a tender rumination on faith, love and the search for identity and acceptance.
– Treise Armstrong, Film Programs Coordinator