- Lee Isaac Chung tells the story of a Korean family moving to rural Arkansas in the 1980s. Chung tells the story with such remarkable specificity (he grew up in rural Arkansas in the 1980s himself).
- The couple (played by Yeri Han and Steven Yeun) often fight and their children (Noel Cho and Alan Kim) send them paper airplanes with “Don’t fight” written on them in crayons.
- Again, nothing here is told in a generic, broad way. Their house is on wheels, their profession is identifying the sex of baby chicks, Mountain Dew is called “water from the mountains” -hilarious.
- Jim Sheridan’s In America (2002) feels like a solid companion film
- Will Patton plays a devoted sort of friend/worker who speaks in tongues and every scene she is in is stolen by Oscar-winning Yuh-Jung Youn as the Grandma. She swears while playing cards with her grandkids, she takes from the collection plate.
- Yuh-Jung gets one of the greatest scenes in the film when she tells her young, afraid grandson that “Grandma won’t let you die”.
- Steven Yeun proves himself to be one of the more exciting actors working after this and Burning in 2018
- The filmmaking style is quiet- this is an acting and writing led film. However, there is a standout sequence at the 81-82 minute mark (captured above) where Chung captures Yeun at low angles in nature- this could be from a Malick film.
- Recommend but not in the top 10 of 2020
One thing I admired in this film was the balance between childhood and maturity that Chung creates. Not unlike Malick in Days of Heaven, Chung tells a sometimes dark and forlorn farm family story through an immature child’s eyes. There are scenes and concepts that could seem childish and funny, but they are paired with maturity and bleak truth under the surface. One of the more haunting moments of the movie comes when Yeun’s character describes to David that all the male chicks are “discarded” at the chicken sexing plant, but the young boy can’t remember the meaning of the word, and is spared from learning this disturbing reality. There was also a wonderful standalone composition of the father and son sitting outside the plant in that scene. This duality between what young people understand and what we realize later in life is a quality that memory piece movies inspired by the writer and director’s lives can portray better than any other type of art.
However, I took issue with the young daughter character, Anne. Chung gave her essentially none of the movie’s best moments, and the actress was clearly steps below her costars as a performer. It’s certainly not a major issue, as the movie is really focusing only on the boy, his parents, and his grandma, but the family seems incomplete when one of its members is effectively ignored. On a separate note, I feel like Chung had some admirable ideas about what cinematic techniques and shot types to use, but he was not able to create enough formal cohesion. For example, there was a nice slow-motion moment at one point, but it was rendered forgettable because the technique was placed at an arbitrary point in the story, and never used again.
Minari is also one of the essential studies of the American Dream. Of course, The Godfather and There Will Be Blood are clearly greater films and connect with the topic nearly as much, and you could probably argue for Citizen Kane and many others as depictions of the topic. However, there are few movies that are as singularly focused on dissecting the American Dream as Minari, with the titular plant representing hope.
[…] Minari – Chung […]