Minari (2020)

Content by Tony Macklin. Originally published on April 29, 2021 @ tonymacklin.net.

After I read some ecstatic reviews of Minari, I thought it was about a Korean-American family that has affectingly positive personal relationships - and triumph.

They move from California to Arkansas seeking a better life. And prevail.

In actuality, the father Jacob (Steven Yeun) and mother Monica (Yeri Han) bicker constantly throughout the film. And the last three significant events are all ruled by fate - not personal triumph.

The characters are bystanders.

At the end, the father, who is a farm owner, relies on an Arkansas way of finding water - that's about it for assimilation.

Director/writer Lee Isaac Chung channels some of his own experience into the film. He is aided by an expressive musical score by Emile Mosseri. His cast is competent. Steven Yeun and Yeri Han capably portray the struggling couple. Alan Kim is likable as their son, and Noel is able as their daughter. They give a normalcy and blandness to the family.

Chung employs two other characters to enliven matters. There is Paul (Will Patton) - a quirky, zealous Christian who is supportive of Jacob's efforts. And there is engagingly-provocative bad granny (Youn Yuh-jung), a unique grandmother who curses, doesn't bake cookies, and plays cards with a negative fervor.

It is the grandmother who plants minari in a nearby stream. Minari is a leafy green vegetable ("water celery") that is used in Korean cooking.

The minari obviously is a major symbol in the film. The minari endures, particularly in its second season of growth. We are supposed to recognize that the farm and family are related to the minari.

The movie Minari is a bunch of minari.

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