Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Minari Review: A Beautiful Picture of the Immigrant Experience

Alan S. Kim	...	David (as Alan Kim) Yeri Han	Yeri Han	...	Monica Noel Cho	Noel Cho	...	Anne (as Noel Kate Cho) Steven Yeun	Steven Yeun	...	Jacob Darryl Cox	Darryl Cox	...	Mr. Harlan Esther Moon	Esther Moon	...	Mrs. Oh Ben Hall	Ben Hall	...	Dowsing Dan Eric Starkey	Eric Starkey	...	Randy Boomer Will Patton	Will Patton	...	Paul Yuh-jung Youn	Yuh-jung Youn	...	Soonja Jacob M Wade	Jacob M Wade	...	Johnnie (as Jacob Wade) James Carroll	James Carroll	...	Brother Roy Jenny Phagan	Jenny Phagan	...	Bonnie Tina Parker	Tina Parker	...	Debbie Chloe Lee	Chloe Lee	...	June

Release date: February 12, 2021
Running time: 120 minutes
Starring: Steven Yeun, Yeri Han, Alan S. Kim
Written and Directed By: 
Lee Isaac Chung

Minari is about the immigrant experience, specifically, the Asian immigrant experience.  Although the film focuses on a Korean family, the themes of this film will resonate with many people.  The movie trains in on a hard working, resourceful, family that is trying to succeed and make a better life.  However, the need to succeed drives a wedge in this family, as the father is constantly trying to do all he can to become a successful businessman, leading to internal strife.

Jonnie Parnell	...	Bank Teller (uncredited) Amanda Pearce	Amanda Pearce	...	Church Goer (uncredited) Ernie Robinson	Ernie Robinson	...	Church Member (uncredited) Ed Spinelli	Ed Spinelli	...	Church member (uncredited) Debbi Tucker	Debbi Tucker	...	Hospital visitor (uncredited) April Warren	April Warren	...	Church Goer (uncredited) Produced by  Joshua Bachove	...	executive producer / line producer Dede Gardner	...	producer Jeremy Kleiner	...	producer Christina Oh	...	producer (p.g.a.) Brad Pitt	...	executive producer Steven Yeun	...	executive producer
But what is so special about this film is that it really captures the immigrant experience.  You have a family of Korean Americans moving to the middle of America in order to work and open a Korean vegetable farm.  But in the process they blend into the small rural town and begin to mix the two cultures.  They go to their local church and begin to make friends with their neighbors, many of whom are not Asian. And they take pieces from both cultures into their family, blending it into something that is uniquely immigrant and American.  The film feels authentic and perfectly depicts the immigrant experience and the values that each culture has.  For example, the film focuses on the family's financial predicament due to the father's position as eldest son and need to take care of his extended family, something that is part of the Asian culture.  But it also focuses on the children and their upbringing, and the pieces of American culture that resonate with them. 

Minari is also just a beautiful film.  It has wonderful cinematography and captures the American heartland in some striking scenes.  It really evokes this feeling of Americana with its small town setting. But it also depicts the American dream perfectly, showing a family striking out on its own, hoping to succeed by your own hard work and dedication.  The farm that the Yi family buys is nothing special, but it definitely feels that way due to the amazing camera work and beautiful shots.  This film is a carefully constructed piece of cinema, with much of it understated.  The dialogue is careful and sharp, the characters all feel realistic and fleshed out, and the overall story is a simple one but one that will resonate. 

And although this film does an amazing job evoking and telling the immigrant story, I can't help but think that this movie attempts to paint it in a brighter light than I would expect from a film set in rural Arkansas.  The movie does not diminish the hard work and dedication of the family, but any inherent racism that would have been present has been removed for this film.  Although I don't think the family would have been ostracized, there were no side comments or racial slurs used in this movie.  That's not necessarily a bad thing as I did not desire to see it and including it would have likely distracted from the overall story and message, but it does make the film seem like a slightly idealized version of the immigrant story.  Minari focuses on the best parts of this setting, the hard work, the can do attitude, and the blending of cultures into something wholly unique.  

Minari is a slow but exquisite film, one that tells the immigrant story with beautiful cinematography, sharp dialog, and a slow burning, bittersweet story of hard work, dedication, and loss. 

Watch it.

Immigrant drama movie movies korean korean american hard work farming dedication
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Minari is in theaters on February 12, 2021.  For showtimes, click here.

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