Movie #59 2021: Minari (2020)

This is it: the ultimate movie for dreamers. Why are there not more American movies on this topic?!

Minari focuses on a family of immigrants from Korea whose children (born in the USA) are technically first-generation Korean-Americans. Steven Yeun stars and is also the executive producer, and has compared the movie to his own upbringing in several interviews, claiming he too felt caught at an ‘in between’. The family in this story are led by their father (played by Yeun) from California to Arkansas, where he sets out to follow his dream of starting a Korean fruit and vegetable farm. Through many twists and turns, we follow how the family adapt to their new lives in pursuit of the American Dream and the toll it takes on their family dynamic.

Sure, it’s mostly in Korean. But this is the most simple and pure depiction of the myth of “The American Dream” that I’ve ever seen on film. ICYMI, there’s quite a bit of controversy behind the Golden Globes this year and specifically in this case, many people are a little agitated by the fact that Minari has been nominated in the “Foreign Language” category. As I may have mentioned elsewhere, the Golden Globes state that if a movie contains 51% or more dialogue in anything other than English, it counts as a foreign language film. To be fair, if the category was ‘Best International Feature’, I’d be pissed too. But as it’s ‘Best Motion Picture – Foreign Language’, I’ll allow it just this once. Plus, maybe the fact that it is fully American produced means it may have had more chance of winning the gong? Sad, but quite true.

But I digress. Back to the film itself…

Heartfelt, warm and sweetly funny, the script is everything I wanted it to be and more. The most perfect thing is that there are a lot of strong, complex themes here (friendship, family, culture clashes, immigration, and more) yet it never feels overstuffed. It is a complete and wonderful piece of storytelling that transcends race and nationality and will touch the heart of anyone lucky enough to see it. 

It’s strikes me that Steven Yeun is present within this story but acts as more of a catalyst to move things along. The real magic comes from Youn Yuh-jung, who is simply magnificent as the quirky yet ultimately caring and charming grandmother. I’d love to see her more in the future. In fact you know what? Every performance is excellent. Youngster Alan Kim as the little boy gives such a mature performance that you can not tell it’s his first feature film credit.

I just cannot find a fault with Minari. It’s beautiful. There are certain aspects that are pretty lowkey and don’t stand out as much, such as the soundtrack. Though great, it’s not the most outstanding soundtrack in the world. However, if this doesn’t get several WINS – never mind nominations – I’ll burn my own house down. 

I’ll be thinking about so many things in this movie for weeks on end. One can only hope more American cinema like this comes to the fore in the coming years, because now is the time to really show what a melting pot you are supposed to be.

Minari is unavailable in the UK as of yet, but has a release date of March 19th. Yay!

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