A Korean family starts a farm in 1980s Arkansas.
This film completely captured the idea of the American Dream. Structurally, the portrait that Lee Isaac Chung paints is with love and the concept of hope. He tells the story of one man’s mission to raise his family the way he believes is right and just. This journey is filled with the highs and lows of life and how our dreams are even harder to achieve. Chung also highlights what it is like to break down this barrier within a minority family. From the language to the jobs, to the structure of everyday life, and the battles to adapt, Chung shows us first hand that our stories may be the same, but our journeys are different.
The backbone of the film does not come from the dad, the wife, or the kids, but it is coming from Grandma Soonja, who is brought into the equation as Jacob and Monica needed someone to watch the kids as they had to work. The unorthodox way that Soonja lives her life isn’t typical of what you see from a Grandma, she even gets called out by David for this. She cannot read or cook, but she provides a quirky way of showing affection towards her grandkids. Whether it’s the hard-knocks way of playing cards, making light of David and his ‘Ding-Dong’ being broken, to showing them how to look at nature, she shares love in her own unique way.
Speaking of Soonja, Youn Yuh-jung is a scene-stealer throughout the film. Our film’s tone is deep and dark, and she provides this breath of fresh air with laughter, wit, and charm. The way Chung writes Soonja is brilliant, but Youn carries herself with confidence, and the role sheds light on the fact that we don’t need to know how to do it all to feel good about ourselves. While the kids highlight Soonja’s flaws, she embodies them, and Youn’s in-depth portrayal of a flawed woman showed us that we need to be more accepting of who we are. Youn is an absolute delight from the time she enters the screen, and she should be in the conversation of Supporting Actress from the Academy.
Next, as the farm begins to fall apart, so does everything around the family. Jacob and Monica are fighting, Soonja is sick, and the kids are starting to struggle without everyday life’s essentials. We are aware that this is based on Chung’s story, and I also understand that this is Hollywood and that Chung could’ve gone many different ways. The path he chose left you gasping for air as you’ve grown to love the journey and want success for this family. They are falling apart in front of your eyes. The film’s authentic nature makes this feel so personal as you can put yourself in their shoes and try to dissect how exactly you would handle what they are going through.
Finally, without divulging deep into spoilers, Chung’s writing is consistent, thought-provoking, and practical. He handles the story from start to finish, ensures that you are left on the edge of your seat throughout. Chung opens our eyes to the things we can see and the things we cannot as he offers the perspective from the eyes of this minority family that faces some of the same obstacles as everyone else but does so on a grander scale. As we take a more in-depth look within ourselves throughout this quarantine, Minari might be the single most important film of our time.
The Verdict: 4 1/2 out of 5 stars – ‘Minari is one of the single most important films of the last twenty years.’