Minari (2020) is a poignant human drama about a Korean family that relocates to Middle America in search of their own variation of the American Dream. As head of the young familial unit, Jacob (Steven Yeun) identifies the ideal location to develop the farmstead of his dreams—an affordable plot of land in rural Arkansas where he plans to grow Korean vegetables.
Jacob hopes to capitalize on the growing Asian population throughout the region, and brings his young wife Monica (Yeri Han) and children Anne (Noel Cho) and David (Alan S. Kim) to live in a motor home located on the property—though none of the three are elated over this new reality. Jacob and Monica take tedious day jobs in a chicken processing plant in order to maintain income, while Jacob works with a local laborer named Paul (Will Patton) on the side to develop his agricultural operation. Enter into the mix Monica’s highly irreverent elderly mother Soonja (Youn Yuh-Jung), who joins the family from Korea and quickly interjects her irascible spirit into the household, bringing a major dose of cheeky humor to the proceedings.
Written and directed by Korean filmmaker Lee Isaac Chung (Munyurangabo), Minari is an absorbing tale of ambition, delivered with remarkable subtlety for a storyline of such broad strokes and dramatic developments. Turning the classic fish-out-of-water concept on its ear and delivering a foreigner’s take on the American experience, Chung has crafted a unique tale of unceasing aspiration beset by the myriad complexities of everyday life.
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