There's a reason why "Minari" won both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. It's the same reason it was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress (which it won for Youn Yuh-jung), Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and Best Original Score. Simply put, it's one of the greatest films of the past year. "Minari" is also the perfect movie to celebrate AAPI Heritage Month.
The plot at first seems quite simple. A Korean man moves his wife and two kids to rural Arkansas in search of a better life. The couple works at a chicken hatchery, but the husband has bought a mobile home and a plot of land and intends to create his own farm. He hopes to sell his produce to Korean markets in America, but runs into several obstacles. The wife's mother arrives to help with the children, a young girl and her little brother who has heart problems.
The way things evolve happen organically, and with much humor and heart. The family is Asian, but their story is universal. No matter who you are, you'll likely relate to these characters, and see much of your own family reflected. It's an unhurried but engaging, entertaining, and moving immigrant tale that lives up to the hype.
"Minari" is a showcase for the AAPI community. It is an extremely personal story for Korean director-writer Lee Isaac Chung, who based the film on his own upbringing in Arkansas in the early '80s. The cast is mostly Korean, other than the townspeople, and an eccentric Korean War veteran (a superb Will Patton) who helps the father on his farm. "Walking Dead" star Steven Yeung is a revelation as the determined patriarch, as are Han Ye-Ri as his concerned wife, and Youn Yuh-Jung in her Oscar-winning role as the fun-loving, philosophical grandmother. Look out, too, for Alan Kim as the scene-stealing son, and Noel Kate Cho as his slightly wiser older sister.
Why You Should See It
Trust us, you will enjoy this movie. Indie film fans have known about this one for a while, but "Minari" really is a movie for everyone. It doesn't have any of the action of a Bond movie or superhero flick, but it's funny, heartfelt, and honest about family relations. You'll laugh and cry, and gain insights. You'll also come out of it appreciating the people in your own life a little more, and appreciating the opportunity to know the people here.
Something to Know
"Minari" was shot in 25 days, and edited while production took place, to make the deadline for Sundance. That is amazing, given the incredible result. In a little more than three weeks, the cast and crew have captured on film a genuine spirit that most movies with twice the schedule and several times the budget only dream of. Bravo to all involved.
Chuck is an editor/writer who's worked for NCM, Fandango, Movies.com, MediaTrip, Hollywood.com and Newsweek. His favorite movie is "Jaws." He's definitely a dog guy.