“Minari” is written and directed by Lee Isaac Chung (Abigail Harm, Lucky Life) and stars Steven Yeun, Han Ye-ri, Alan Kim, Noel Kate Cho, Youn Yuh-jung, and Will Patton in a film about a Korean family trying to live the American dream. The movie mainly centers around a father who wants to build a better life for his spouse and children. In hopes of achieving all he could wish for, David moves with his family to Arkansas to start a farm. While Jacob is happy and ready to see his dreams potentially rise to reality, not everyone is onboard. Throughout, we are presented with a slice of life about a group of people adapting to a new situation and all its successes and failures.
I’ve waited a couple weeks to talk about “Minari.” Why? For starters, I wanted to get my Valentine’s Day special out to the public. Top 10 Movie Crushes, check it out! But I also have been busy with school and life to the point where I just could barely find time to work on this review. So I apologize in advance if anything that comes out of my mouth sounds odd, it has been a couple weeks. I went into “Minari” sort of with the same expectations that I had for “Nomadland,” which I had high hopes for, I thought Chloe Zhao was going to knock the film out of the park, and what did I think of it? Well, I gave it a 7/10. Now that is not a bad grade by any means, but I kind of expected at least an 8 given how the film has won so many festivals and awards thus far and it may continue its dominance at the Golden Globes this weekend if things go right. I will say though, Chloe Zhao may be *the* director all film fans should have their eyes on right now. Not only does she have a critically acclaimed film with “Nomadland,” but she also has “Eternals” and a “Dracula” project coming up. Could be exciting!
As for Lee Isaac Chung, the director of “Minari,” he is not a name I am completely aware of. I have not watched, nor am I familiar with any of his work. I know of Steven Yeun, the star of this film, but this film comes packed with a bunch of folks whose names I could have never stated prior to either watching the movie or making this review. It’s kind of like every day in high school. It’s a lot of folks around at once! Who are these people? What are their names? Come on, help me!
Either way, let me just give you my simple thoughts on “Minari.” To say I went in with low expectations would be a total lie. I was expecting an Oscar contender. I can assure you I was not disappointed. Granted, it is a little forgettable in parts but overall, I had a great time watching “Minari.” Everything from the acting to the directing to the writing is top-notch and well worth a trip to the theater or a rental whenever it is available on VOD.
“Minari” is one of those films that makes you feel… Well, everything. You laugh. You smile. You wince. You go “wow.” You may even get to the point where you’re a little emotional. I am not saying “Minari” is a tearjerker, but it is certainly a movie where the characters continue to grow on you.
“Minari” comes off as a small, intimate story with giant, magnificent craft. And a part of that has to do with the relationship between the cast and the directing effort. Steven Yeun and Han Ye-ri do an excellent job encapsulating the mix of tension and togetherness between their characters, Jacob and Monica. They have their differences, but they are in a way willing to stick together for something glorious that may lie ahead. Jacob is clearly happy and cannot wait for his dreams to come true, but Monica is noticeably pessimistic and that sort of affects how they are trying project reality onto their family.
One of my favorite parts of the film would have to be the relationship between the young boy, David, and the grandma, Soon-ja. Thinking about it now, when I was a child, I would spend many days with my grandmother. Granted, for different reasons than this film presents. This relationship to an extent reminded me of the one I had with my grandmother as a child. She would come by my house, hang out with me, watch television, play her handheld solitaire. Although one thing that out stood to me during the film is that the boy refuses to call his grandma “real.” By his definition, that means a grandma who “bakes cookies” for example. Now, I’ve done that sort of thing with my grandma, that I will not deny, but it sort of reminded me of a conversation I would have with her every once in a while. So I am from the Boston area, where people like their coffee from Dunkin’ and their football teams winning championships. One of my earliest memories of hearing the distinctive “Boston accent” came out of my grandmother’s mouth, where instead of saying “careful,” she would say “cahful.” I would occasionally “correct” her and then we move on with our lives. While I never called either of my grandmothers “fake,” I can assure that this relationship between a young boy and his grandmother is somewhat similar to one I’ve experienced myself.
One of the recent films I watched in terms of my Scene Before reviews was the Amazon Studios film “Herself,” which I thought was quite a good watch. Not as stellar as “Minari,” but it is worth your time. It is currently free for all Prime subscribers, give it a chance. The recent why I bring that film up is because like “Minari” it has one of the better endings of 2020. Both films have respective endings that are sort of subversive, but also lines up and connects with a theme that may have been brought up earlier in the film. I will not spoil either ending, but the way they do it in “Minari” makes the ticket price worth paying. Plus, without any further clarification, it allows the cinematographer to go to town and deliver a couple of the standout shots of 2020 cinema. I do not think the Academy will recognize “Minari” for cinematography, but I am sure they will recognize them more so than the Golden Globes.
Antiquated rules, my ass.
In the end, “Minari” is a great film that I will recommend to everyone reading this. Now if you are one of the few people who passed on “Parasite” because you cannot stand subtitles, I will still recommend “Minari” because it probably will still connect with you in some way, but I cannot control your lives and manipulate your way of thinking entirely, that might be cruel. The film has a couple problems. And I will sort of attribute it to the same things I said about “Soul” when I reviewed that film. The film checks a lot of boxes, humor, heart, good characters, but there are certain films that take many of these elements, which are “good” and takes them up a level. But that is just me. “Minari” is nevertheless worth a watch, maybe two, and I am going to give it an 8/10.
Thanks for reading this review! This Sunday I am proud to announce the Jackoffs is about to get in gear. For the past number of months, I have been working on comedy bits, an intro, previews, a poster, and now… A key moment has arrived. It’s nomination time! This Sunday I will be announcing the nominations for the 3rd Annual Jackoff Awards! What do you hope to see nominated? Leave your comments below! Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account, also like the Facebook page so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “Minari?” What did you think about it? Or, have you ever lived in Arkansas? As a Bay Stater, I have literally no idea what is like. Is it fun? Is it boring? Please let me know! I’m genuinely curious! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!