Minari (2020)



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“Wonderful wonderful Minari wonderful” Minari contains a self-referential song! Minari is a somewhat autobiographical film written and directed by Lee Isaac Chung. It is an American dream story of a Korean immigrant family trying to start a farm in rural Arkansas. Steven Yeun, of Sorry to Bother You and Burning, stars as Jacob, a father, and first-time farmer. Yeri Han plays his reluctant wife Monica, who slides into a mild depression as she seeks to find community in their new home. Their daughter Anne, Noel Cho, and son David, Alan S. Kim, are along for the ride. David has a heart murmur and despite having endless open space is unable to run and play like a normal child.


To stave off the depression and threats of moving the kids back to California, Jacob brings Monica’s mother from Korea to live with them. Yuh-Jung Youn plays the grandmother, Soonja. She is a wonderful addition to the cast and brings some levity to an otherwise sad struggle. She quickly becomes the emotional anchor of the film and brings laughs and tears.


My parents moved away from their families for the best work opportunities. My parents did not have to live through the cultural shock of being others, but they did raise me and my sister with minimal direct family support. My partner and I have also moved flying distance away from our families. My partner is the daughter of immigrants. When we talk about her parents getting on a plane to go halfway around the world with a limited grasp of the English language and little financial support, we can’t envision doing it ourselves. It is a bold and terrifying experience that neither of us could fathom doing.


Minari takes expatriation to another level by leaving an ex-pat community to move to the middle of nowhere Arkansas. Immigrants will always amaze me, and their stories and experiences are fascinating and full of lessons for those in comfortable situations.


Minari was snubbed by the golden globes. Steven Yuen was born in the United States. Minari takes place in 1980s Arkansas. The Golden Globes elected to place the film in the Best Motion Picture – Foreign Language category. That is the category normally reserved for films made outside of the United States. It is a stupid move that has received blowback because it takes a film approaching an immigrant experience and puts an ‘other’ story into the ‘others’ category. Awards or not this is a touching story that most people should experience.

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