Minari | Film Review

Minari (2021, PG-13)

Directed by Lee Isaac Chung

The year 2020 was full of surprises and postponements as we all found ways to confront and live with the new coronavirus and its effects. One of the major postponements of the year in the entertainment world was movie releases. We waited, and waited…and waited as the release of long-anticipated films were pushed back, moved to a streaming format, or experienced production delays of a year or more. Fortunately, we can catch up at the Orem Public Library on some of the movies we may have missed last year. Minari is one of those films.

Originally scheduled for a late 2020 release, Minari was finally viewed in theatres in February 2021. It was initially viewed as a juried film entry at the Sundance Film Festival in January, 2020, and garnered the Grand Jury and Dramatic Audience awards. Because it had a one-week virtual release in 2020, the film was eligible for that year’s Academy Awards nominations, of which the film earned six, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor. Yuh-Jung Youn, who played the grandmother, won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.

Minari is set in the United States in the 1980s, and tells the story of a Korean immigrant family who comes from their homeland to Arkansas by way of California. The dreams of Jacob Yi, the husband and father, to sink all their savings into farming 50 waterless acres collide with his wife Monica’s desire for financial and social stability for their two children. To create a compromise between these conflicting visions, Jacob and Monica invite Monica’s mother to leave Korea and come live with them so she can tend the children while each parent follows a separate pursuit of the American dream. The conflicts and adjustments are typical of families in changing circumstances, and heightened by underlying cultural differences and difficulties.

Minari is a film that examines tender family feelings and substantial family challenges. It is a film that dares to be quiet in a cinematic universe filled with chills and thrills. It is a film that, above all, examines the validity and attainability of what most of the world once believed was the great American experiment: that a common man can become anything he sets his heart and hands to becoming. And the film asks the relevant question, Is that dream still attainable?

Film Review by Anne