Thursday, February 11

Minari Review


Dir: Lee Isaac Chung

Starring: Steven Yuen, Yeri Han, Yuh-Jung Youn, Alan S. Kim, Noel Cho, and Will Patton

1 h 55 m



There is tenderness at the core of Lee Isaac Chung's exceptional Minari. This quiet and straightforward sensitivity allows a story of an immigrant family chasing the American dream to feel universal even though the culture and traditions explored may be unfamiliar. Chung, whose own personal story is reflected in Minari, does not depend on extravagant sequences or melodramatic thrills. It's merely a story about family and the struggles of trying to provide the best for them. It's poignant, beautiful, sweet, funny, and life-affirming storytelling.


David (Alan S. Kim) is a young boy moving to Arkansas with his family in the 1980s. His father, Jacob (Steven Yuen), mother Monica (Yeri Han), and sister Anne (Noel Cho) are relocating from California, setting up a home in a mobile residence in the middle of nowhere. Jacob has dreams of starting a farm, producing Korean vegetables, which he thinks is a growing food commodity. Monica is less thrilled but more scared and frustrated that Jacob didn't explain the specifics of their new life in Arkansas and just how hard it would be to change their lives. They argue, frustrations growing more heated as Jacob's small victories get consistently upended by greater, looming misfortunes. 


Chung's film is one of hope and despair, success and failure, easy wins and troublesome losses. It's hard not to grow more invested in the movie as we know the family more intimately. We observe two parents putting on the best show for the kids, even when everything isn't going as planned. We watch frustrations mount to shouting matches between mom and dad. But we also see the happiness blossom between family members who learn to trust each other. We witness a family unit come together and grow stronger solely because they can depend on each other. 


Minari, even with its heavier emotions in moments, is equally as warm and funny. The film gets much of its heart from two characters and their quarrelsome relationship, young David and Monica's mother, Soonja (Yuh-Jung Youn), who moves from Korea to help the family out. Soonja is defiant, challenging, enjoys gambling on cards, uses swear words, and deeply loves her young grandchildren. Soonja and David start on rocky terms, but they grow closer throughout the film. It's delightful to watch. 


Yuh-Jung Youn gives an impressive performance, playing Soonja with a perfect blend of "grandma" qualities; the wise words spoken from a place of experience that is equally as comforting as it can be uncomfortable to hear such honest truths. When paired with young actors Alan S. Kim and Noel Cho, the trio become the heart of Minari. Steven Yuen and Yeri Han give exceptional performances and occupy the married couple struggling to understand what they want out of life and how they will survive the many obstacles that persist through their life in honest and raw displays of emotion. 


The beauty of Minari comes in how it displays the theme of "The American Dream" through the perspective of a family who comes from a different country and culture. It's an intimate portrait of family dynamics and a film that displays how hard it was, and still is, for non-white people to assimilate into America. 


Monte's Rating

4.25 out of 5.00

*** In select theaters February 12th and On Demand February 26th,


Virtual Cinema Tickets are also now on sale at the A24 Virtual Screening Room

In conjunction with their theater partners, A24 has launched a virtual cinema platform to supplement Minari's limited theatrical release on February 12. The A24 Screening Room will host two weeks of Minari virtual screenings as we work together to bring Lee Isaac Chung's beloved film to the audiences who want to see it most.

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