As we grapple with our national identity, it’s reassuring to watch Lee Isaac Chung’s latest film, a tender look back on his own coming-of-age, and realize how much all Americans have in common.
An ode to Chung’s own upbringing, Minari tells the story of a Korean-American family that moves from California to Arkansas to realize the father’s dream of becoming a farmer. Minari portrays the simple, elegant tropes of our shared mythology with humor and empathy, treating us to tenderly observed family moments (including a wacky grandma who will steal your heart). Told through a child’s eyes, Minari is a portrait of a man who pushes his dream to a point where it almost breaks everything he holds dear.
Minari tells the truth about family life; we see a wife and husband in conflict over the future of their family, and are treated to the honest scrabbles between a young boy with a heart problem and his unconventional grandma. The best scene in the film comes as young David (a stalwart and endearing Alan S. Kim) tells his grandma Soonja (Yuh-jung Youn) that he’s afraid he might die and go to Hell. They’ve hardly had an easy relationship — he calls her smelly and she tells his friends he has a “broken ding dong”– but she is finally able to comfort him at a pivotal point in the story.
Minari evokes empathy for the shared dreams of all Americans and is highly recommended during this awards season – and, you’ll be hearing plenty about it. Accurate racial representation has become an important issue in all storytelling, and this film does it with elegance.
Common Sense says the film is fine for 13+ and notes the film for it’s portrait of perseverance and compassion.The film can be streamed here (password required) until it streams on Amazon Prime on February 26.