Minari (12A)Cast: Alan S Kim, Youn Yuh-jung, Steven Yeun, Yeri Han
Author(s): Lee Isaac Chung
Director: Lee Isaac Chung
Release Date: 12/052021
Running Time: 116mins
Korean immigrant Jacob Yi transplants his wife Monica and their two children Anne and David from California to Arkansas, where he intends to farm 50 acres of untouched wilderness. Monica is unimpressed: their new home is an hour from the nearest hospital, where David is undergoing treatment for a heart condition. The despondent wife invites her cantankerous mother to travel from South Korea to the family plot for emotional support.
LondonNet Film Review
Writer-director Lee Isaac Chung plunders memories of his childhood in the shadow of the Ozark Mountains in an autobiographical love letter to family ties and intergenerational conflict. Glimpsed through the eyes of a Korean American couple, who relocate their brood to 1980s Arkansas, Minari charms and delights without flashiness, relying on naturalistic performances from a powerhouse ensemble cast and the untouched beauty of the Bible Belt to cast a heady spell. Taking its title from the luscious water cress which flourishes in Korea, Chung’s beautifully calibrated character study balances moments of regret with earthy humour including an impish boy serving an elderly relative a fragrant brew they won’t forget….
Eight-year-old Alan S Kim’s performance as the mischievous tyke is a source of endless delight and is a glowing testament to writer-director Chung’s ability to tease out authenticity from the youngest member of cast without trading too heavily on winsomeness. Supporting Actress Oscar nominee Youn Yuh-jung is a lip-smacking delight as the potty-mouthed grandmother with scant regard for social niceties, who shatters the peace with the cool disregard of a wrecking ball. In the rubble, Minari unearths moments of life-affirming joy and despair from a gifted filmmaker’s heart.
Korean immigrant Jacob Yi (Steven Yeun) transplants his wife Monica (Yeri Han) and their two children Anne (Noel Cho) and David (Kim) from California to Arkansas. “This is the best dirt in America,” coos David, allowing the earth to tumble through his fingers as he admires 50 acres of untouched wilderness. Monica is unimpressed: their new home is an hour from the nearest hospital, where David is undergoing treatment for a heart condition. “If this is the start you wanted, maybe there’s no chance for us,” she rues.
The despondent wife invites her cantankerous mother (Yuh-jung) to travel from South Korea to the family plot. The elderly matriarch arrives bearing chilli powder and anchovies but no sympathy for her little nephew’s night-time bed-wetting (“Ding dong broken!”) or her daughter’s softly-softly approach to parenting. Meanwhile, David enlists God-fearing neighbour and Korean War veteran Paul (Will Patton) to grow fruit and vegetables to sell in nearby Dallas.
Minari balances sweetness and spice like expertly made kimchi to a recipe of heartfelt emotion in Chung’s simple yet effective script. Yeun’s moving embodiment of a proud father desperate to provide for his children (“They need to see me succeed at something for once”) gels magnificently with Han’s increasingly disillusioned wife. Misfortune and tests of religious faith punctuate a bittersweet family album, which quietly champions the pursuit of one American dream that doesn’t mean sacrificing cherished traditions. Harmony can blossom in the divide between competing cultures and Chung skilfully harvests an entertaining and enthralling crop.
– Kim Hu
UK and Irish Cinemas Showing Minari
From: Friday 9th April
To: Thursday 15th April
From: Friday 16th April
To: Thursday 22nd April
Fri/Sat/Mon/Wed/Thu 21:15; Sun 19:15