Minari at GFF21 – review by Pat Byrne
Minari is a gentle film, with wonderful ambient music and gorgeous cinematography. It is set in beautiful countryside around the Ozarks in Arkansas, where Jacob Yi (Steven Yeun) has brought his Korean family from California. Jacob’s dream is to support his family by creating a farm selling Korean vegetables.
Both Jacob and his wife Monica (Yeri Han), who is unimpressed by the neglected fields and new dingy home on wheels, find monotonous work as chicken sexers, sorting chicks into boxes according to their gender.
The story unfolds through the eyes of David, their seven year old son, with the fantastic Alan Kim in the role. Anne his older sister is the other member of the Korean American family attempting to find success and security in a new place. She is a quiet, easy child. David is mischievous, smart and endearing – he also has a heart murmur. Concerns regarding his medical condition and being so far from a hospital contribute to his mother’s lack of enthusiasm for her husband’s venture. Conflict grows between the pair as she expresses her wishes to return to California.
When her mother Soonja (Youn Yuh-jung) comes from Korea to live with the family ,an element of comedy is introduced and the relationship between David and his Grandma is one of the most compelling aspects of Minari. David does not take to his Grandma at all, resents sharing his room with her – complaining that she ‘smells of Korea’. He sees her as lacking the requirements of a Grandma. She can’t ‘make cookies’ but she introduces fun into the children’s lives with her passion for playing cards and watching wrestling – and she curses. She has brought several delicacies with her from Korea, ingredients that delight her daughter and medicine that disgusts David. She has also brought Minari, a herb. She and David start to bond when they find the perfect spot for the plant to grow.
In making ‘Minari’ writer/director, Lee Isaac Chung, has drawn on his own experience as a child, moving to live in the Arkansas countryside with his South Korean parents. In his beautiful film he has created a well crafted tribute that completely draws you into the Yu family, their hopes and concerns. Chung successfully avoids cliche and over the top high drama – there is not a single jarring moment in this captivating film.
Pat Byrne, February 2021
You can purchase Minari at Glasgow Film Festival until 7 p.m. 27 February, 2021
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