Minari is a simple movie, but it’s because of this that it works so well. The acting is phenomenal and the story is incredibly relatable for many people who have struggled to try to follow their dreams and make it in this country.
Steven Yeun has come a long way in his career. Most people know him for his role as Glenn in The Walking Dead, but he’s done so much more since then and has really expanded his career palette. From small indie films, to doing voice overs for popular animated projects, I truly believe Yeun has done his best work yet in Minari. It helps he has a clever and competent screenplay to work with. Although it’s a simple and familiar kind of story, it does work in many ways and does stand out above other family dramas I’ve seen. Yeun isn’t the only performance to enjoy either.
Minari tells the story of a Korean American family who move to the United States to try and make a better living for each other. Throughout all the struggles, they find out how durable they can be and how important it is to be united as a family.
I found this film to be incredibly nostalgic from the very start. I can’t say I can wholeheartedly relate with every thing the family goes through, but some scenes and beats from this movie felt very familiar. There are some experiences I see happen in this movie that I know my parents went through in their lifetime. The way the family displays their internal struggles seems extremely authentic and it’s almost obvious this is based on real life experiences.
What’s most enjoyable is the different kinds of struggles each member of the family is going through, no matter how major or minor they may seem. For example, the father, Jacob Yi (Yeun), he feels the struggle of being the financial support for his family. As a viewer, you know he’s trying with everything in his power to give them whatever they need. He has one business idea in particular that he sticks with and perseveres through and when he finally gets his break, life happens. It feels like one of those curveballs life hits you with from time to time in order to test you and you’re not sure why. This moment in particular is very relatable since I believe, as individuals who are trying to succeed in life, we all go through this at various points in our lives.
There’s the mother, Monica Yi (Han Ye-ri), who also wants the best for her family. However, sometimes, you see how the struggles of living in America and dealing with the current circumstances get to her. Sometimes, she isn’t content with her situation and all the decisions her husband is making, which leads to arguments among themselves. I found this to be authentic as well since I believe most families have various disagreements about how they should do things. At the end of the day, they just want the best for their family.
By far, the most enjoyable part of the film for me is the dynamic relationship between the grandmother, Soon-ja (Youn Yuh-jung), and the children, specifically with the son, David Yi (Alan Kim). You can tell she’s a very cool and nonchalant kind of grandma with how she reacts to every situation and how she interacts with the rest of the family. For the most part, she’s already lived most of her life and has dealt with all the struggles that comes with it. At this point in her life, she just wants to enjoy whatever she has left. In many ways, she provides the comedic relief for the movie and really helps the viewer escape from all the struggles.
As mentioned, the relationship with her and David is great to watch. David is just a child, so obviously, he doesn’t understand the magnitude and importance of everything going on around him. He just wants things to be done for him and it’s honestly exactly how a child usually acts. They’re still young so they don’t always comprehend what they’re demanding and how hard it is to give them exactly what they want most of the time. But, the grandma really does try her best. He isn’t her biggest fan at first, but their bond really does grow stronger as the film progresses.
The aspect that hits the hardest, again, is the life aspect of it. No matter how good things seem to be going, something always comes and shakes things up a bit. The family shoes resilience, though. They stick together regardless of everything that’s going on. Ultimately, that’s the message the movie is sending from the very beginning. There’s also a ray of hope coming from another character named Paul (Will Patton). He comes off as overly religious and a bit extreme with his methods, but I believe his intentions are clear and genuine throughout. He really does go the extra mile to help Jacob in his endeavors.
Minari isn’t for everyone, I think, since it’s somewhat of a slow burn kind of film. It’s a hard drama most of the time and I can see some people getting restless with it. However, I also believe it’s an important film to watch. I wasn’t all that satisfied with the ending, but I do understand the message it was trying to send. Beauty truly does rise from ashes. In other words, there may be a large amount of struggling going on, but there’s still hope that everything will be alright. A very therapeutic watch at the end of the day.