Minari is a 2020 American drama film starring Steven Yeun, Han Ye-ri, Alan Kim, Noel Kate Cho, Youn Yuh-jung and Will Patton. Minari follows a family of South Korean immigrants who are in search for the ‘American dream’.
Set in the 1980s, Minari follows a Korean-American family that moves to a tiny Arkansas farm in the Ozarks. The film follows the journey of the family from when they first arrive at their new farm in Arkansas and their undeniable resilience when faced with a variety of challenges. The premise sounds rather straightforward and frankly, it is, but it’s this simplicity that makes Minari so immersive.
It’s unsurprising to learn that Minari has already won numerous awards and is tipped to win big at the Oscars. With such a simple premise, I was shocked at how quickly I became engrossed in the troubles and hardship faced by the family, by the end of the film I actually felt like part of the family! The majority of Minari is actually in Korean with English subtitles and this really does add to the authenticity of the film. I found with the subtitles I was actually absorbing every conversation, argument and joke much more than if the film had been spoken solely in English.
If you are going to sit down and watch Minari, then you need to have patience. The run time is just under two hours and can be a little slow in parts, but that isn’t a bad thing. The slow pace just kind of fits the soft, progressive nature of the film. So often we watch films and take notice of a few moments in a scene which then soon pass us by. In Minari, its slower pace and precise detailing in every scene forces the audience to soak in every element, frame by frame.
Minari centres on parents Jacob and Monica Yi, their children David Yi and Anne Yi as well as their quirky grandmother Soon-ja. Steven Yeun (who you may know as Glenn from The Walking Dead) plays father of the family Jacob and is absolutely fantastic in the role. The whole cast really is faultless, but Youn Yuh-jung who plays the family’s grandmother Soon-ja deserves a special mention, she creates such a wacky and relatable grandmother that it’s hard not to love her!
I was also blown away by Alan Kim’s portrayal of David Yi. For just seven years old, he’s the star of the film and his performance in Minari shows a maturity beyond his years. The Yi family predominantly speak Korean throughout the film but also switch to English at different points. This ability to switch languages instantaneously mid-conversation and still progress the dialogue felt very authentic for a Korean American family. These bilingual dialogues are even more impressive when you consider that the children have the ability to switch it up as required.
Cinematically, Minari is near perfect. The film is beautifully shot and the story is elegantly told and with a gentle musical score, every aspect of the film complements the pure, uncomplicated tale of Minari. I keep coming back to simplicity, but Minari really is a fine of example of less is more.
I really didn’t know what to expect when sitting down to watch Minari, yet it blew my expectations completely out of the water. Minari will make you laugh, but it will also make you cry. Minari’s innate ability to encompass all of this emotion through a profound and intimate look at a family going through hardship, makes it a mightily special piece of cinema.
Minari is a beautifully heartfelt insight into authentic family hardship and is a prime example of less equalling more.