The American Dream, the idealised national ethos of the United States with the belief that anyone, regardless of where they were born or what class they were born into, can attain their own version of success in a society in which upward mobility is possible for everyone. Lee Isaac Chung's Minari explores this from the perspective of a Korean family in the 1980s.

Yearning to own a small patch of land and be more than a chicken sexer, the ambitious patriarch, Jacob Yi (Steven Yeun), relocates his Korean-American family, sceptical wife, Monica (Yeri Han), and their children, David (Alan Kim) and Anne (Noel Cho), from California to 1980s rural Arkansas, to start afresh and capture the elusive American Dream. However, new beginnings are always challenging, and to find out what is best for the family, let alone start a 50-acre farm to grow and sell Korean fruits and vegetables, is easier said than done.

Minari is one of the warmest films you could watch this year, Lee Isaac Chung creating a piece of cinema that is truly good for the soul. It's not out to impress you with flashy filmmaking or anything like that, instead keeping things simple with a story about a family trying to make a life of their own, and it does it so effectively. Chung's writing is exceptional, whether it being the more dramatic aspects or the light moments of comedy sprinkled throughout, seeing this family come together, even when some relationships amongst them seem like strangers to one another, is simply beautiful.

Lachlan Milne's cinematography ensures Minari is one of the finest looking films of the year, the greens of the land emphasising the freshness of their new challenge and the spaces between the likes of Jacob and Monica highlighting the strain the hard work is putting on their marriage. The film flows so effortlessly thanks to Harry Yoon's editing and it does so accompanied by a majestic score from Emile Mosseri, which might have to be one of the more soothing and dreamlike accompaniments of the year.

Minari features a wonderful ensemble of actors, some very experienced and others only just starting their acting journey. Steven Yeun leads the film with an incredible performance of a determined father and husband intent on making a success of their move for his family's future. The American Dream is what Yeun's Jacob strives for, even if it fractures the relationship he shares with his wife, Yeri Han giving a fine performance in the role and the pair sharing a remarkably emotional scene towards the end of the film. Youngster Alan Kim is a scene-stealer in the role of David, his antics providing numerous moments of humour, particularly some of his exchanges with his grandmother Soonja, played by Yuh-jung Youn, where we see their relationship grow from strangers to family. Two actors at very different ends of the experience scale but both making it feel like so genuine and heartfelt.

"Minari is truly the best. It grows anywhere, like weeds. So anyone can pick and eat it. Rich or poor, anyone can enjoy it and be healthy. Minari can be put in kimchi, put in stew, put in soup. It can be medicine if you are sick. Minari is wonderful, wonderful!" The words spoken by Soonja in the film that really stick with you as the film comes to a close, signalling the Yi family's American Dream is becoming a reality.

Verdict: ★★★★★


Popular Posts