A Korean family moves to Arkansas in the ’80s to start a new life as farmers—a dream for the father (Steven Yeun), but not so much for the mother (Yeri Han).
Minari—which nabbed six Oscar nominations, including one for Best Picture—is a semi-autobiographical film by writer-director Lee Isaac Chung. It’s an elegantly told family story featuring career-best work from Yeun as Jacob, and a fantastic performance by Yuh-jung Youn as the grandmother who comes to live with them in their manufactured home in the middle of nowhere. Both Yeun and Youn earned much-deserved Oscar nominations.
Mom and Dad make ends meet while building their farm, constantly checking baby-chick genders. (The males go straight to the incinerator, a sight which made me feel worse about the plight of chickens and roosters.) Grandma helps watch the children while chugging Mountain Dew and enduring the good-natured nonsense of her grandkids.
Will Patton provides memorable work as an eccentric neighbor with a penchant for speaking in tongues and dragging a large cross around. Noel Cho and Alan S. Kim are terrific as the kids.
The charming movie feels authentic in its depiction of a different time in history. (Good god, was this really 40 years ago?) While his character’s dreams come off as a bit insane in the beginning, Chung makes you believe in Jacob, his dreams and the little successes that bolster those dreams. You can genuinely feel the satisfaction he feels when driving his newly purchased tractor and harvesting his vegetables. You also see and feel all of the pain he and his family go through to have those satisfactory moments.
Minari is available for rent via various online sources.