Lee Isaac Chung’s ‘Minari’ is well deserving of its critical acclaim, a heartfelt dedication to the Korean immigrant experience and the pursuit of the American Dream.
Lee Isaac Chung’s masterpiece ‘Minari’ focuses on the lives of the Yi family after moving to Arkansas in pursuit of the American Dream. Having bought a farm near the Ozarks, Jacob Yi (Steven Yeun) pursues a career in agriculture, sowing Korean crops in the hope to sell them to the immigrants in the USA.
However, Jacob’s determination to successfully run this farm leads to the neglect of his wife, Monica (Han Ye-Ri), who struggles with her own career and managing her children. Looming over the already strained family life, is the health of the youngest son David (Alan Kim), afflicted with a heart condition. Lee Isaac Chung creates this maelstrom of tension, the relationships between individuals, and the relationships between individuals and aspirations.
Introducing the character of the Grandma, played by Yuh-Jung Yeun, who won Best Supporting Actress at the Oscars for this role, amplifies the domestic unrest with her unruly character, the film depicts an intergenerational household infused with tension and ambition. There is a poignant sense that, despite the threat of debt and the overt conflict between characters, the Yi family cares greatly for each other.
The Grandma plants some Minari, a Korean herb known for its bitter taste, which flourishes unlike the crops on Jacob’s farm. Lee Isaac Chung explains how the Minari plant has sentimental quality, the film is semi-autobiographical, reflecting his own experiences as a young boy growing up in Arkansas in the 80s, remembering how the Minari grew well in American soil, undoubtably a metaphor for cultural differences and similarities and how they might interact.
Premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, ‘Minari’ was critically acclaimed and was nominated for six Oscars, including: Best Picture, Best Director and Best Supporting Actress. Also, ‘Minari’ won the Golden Globe Award for the Best Foreign Language Film. Undoubtably, these awards are well deserved. This film was a beautiful depiction of domestic life, exploring the integration of cultures and the idea of acceptance. Lee Isaac Chung’s own experience is palpable through the avid attention to detail and the heartfelt interactions between characters.
Star rating: 5 stars
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