by Jay Cook
The saying, “the grass is always greener over the other side”, rings pretty true for Minari. This will be a journey a lot of people have taken in some form or another, the search for a better life. Minari manages to capture two things rather uniquely. First, it’s about finding the greener grass and second, it’s about finding a place in a community of another country that both embracing the new and cherishing the old ways of life.
Jacob (Steven Yeun) decides it’s time to not only fulfil his dream of owning a farm but be a prosperous decision for his family Monica (Yeri Han), Anne (Noel Cho) and David (Alan S. Kim). Moving the family from California to Arkansas the illusion of a wonderful life is quickly diminished as they have to jump and pull themselves into their demountable home.
Monica starts to build a home as Jacob sets to building his farm. Unimpressed with the new life Monica lets Jacob fulfil his dream as long as he leaves enough money for David. But as the money starts to run down Jacob and Monica find work at the local chicken farm to determine the sex of chickens.
David has a heart condition and Monica is worried being so far from a hospital might be a cause for concern. Not to mention their new life isn’t exactly as she had dreamed of when moving to America. With the many worries and struggling to make friends, tension has started to grow between Jacob and Monica.
With an ultimatum on the line, the farm works or Monica can take the children back to California, it’s decided they need help with the children. Monica’s mother, Soonja (Yuh-jung Youn), is on her way and for the first-time meeting David.
Soonja isn’t like your usual grandmother. She enjoys gambling, watches wrestling and loves a glass of mountain dew. This upsets Jacob, he wanted a grandmother baked him cookies like in the movies. In an act of rebellion, he gives her a run for her money.
With the help of Paul (Will Patton) Jacob manages to build a fruitful farm. With hopes of building a relationship with local shops he sets to selling his produce. But after Soonja suffers a heart attack and isn’t able to be as helpful around the farm, everyone’s luck takes a turn.
Out of this poor luck comes some good news as the family take stock in what is really important to them and how they can make their new life work.
There are some wonderful moments in the film, mostly between Grandma Soonja and David. There is this back and forward of Soonja having a traditional approach and David showing a very Americanised persona towards her, void of any tradition or respect. It’s a clever balance showing the Korean culture full of discipline, pride and respect. Compared to that of the American culture full of naivety, disrespect and an absolute free way to life.
There’s a particular pace to this film, it almost feels like you’re growing with the family as the farm itself grows. You can see each character build on the experiences and grow as people despite what gets thrown at them.
Overall, Minari is a wonderful story about a Korean family trying to make a name for themselves in America. With high hopes and even bigger ambition, the family set to not only build a new life from scratch but also establish themselves in the community. What they find in this sometimes funny and a sometimes depressing story is it’s not always what you have, it’s about who you have to support you along the way.
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