Starring: Steven Yeun, Han Ye-ri, Youn Yuh-jungDirector: Lee Isaac Chung
Running Time: 115 mins
Minari is an American film about a Korean family who move to a rural area of Arkansas, where they try to build a life and business for themselves.
There have been countless movies about the American Dream, but none which have portrayed it in quite as genuine and down-to-earth a fashion as Minari does. Tender, emotionally challenging and still full of heart and humour, Minari is a gorgeous piece of slice-of-life cinema, and a truly wonderful tale for all viewers.
It’s fair to say that the premise of Minari is more than understated, but that’s the core of why the film works so, so well. Beautifully executed in its measured and reserved manner, the film takes a semi-autobiographical account of writer-director Lee Isaac Chung’s childhood and turns it into perhaps the most wonderful depiction of the American Dream you’ll ever see.
I’m using the word ‘wonderful’, because Minari’s boundless heart makes it an endlessly charming film to watch. As emotionally captivating and resonant a tale about making a life for yourself as it is, it’s also a funny and heartfelt story, counting on Lee Isaac Chung’s deeply intimate insight into a story so very clearly about his own upbringing.
That intimacy shines through in an attention to detail on the level of Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma, something that’s extremely difficult to achieve, but is absolutely beautiful to watch when it’s done well. Minari, however, doesn’t lean too heavily on nostalgia for a bygone era, and that’s what makes it such an accessible watch for all audiences.
The film’s understated premise and slow pacing might seem like a daunting prospect at first, but Minari endears itself to you within seconds of its opening, as you fall in love with the five main characters and their differing hopes and dreams for their lives ahead.
That depth of emotion ranges from the father and mother of the family, played by Steven Yeun and Han Ye-ri, to their young son, played beautifully by Alan Kim. Together, they and their co-stars make up a wonderfully tight-knit ensemble cast, who are effortlessly lovable throughout the film.
And that lovability means you’re behind all of them every step of the way as they try to make a life for themselves in a rural patch of Arkansas. Establishing relationships with their neighbours while never losing sight of their Korean heritage, Minari really is the perfect encapsulation of the American Dream, and the dramatic ups and downs that come with it.
Overall, I absolutely adored Minari. A truly gorgeous film through and through, the film takes an intimate semi-autobiographical story and makes it one of the most touching, sweet and endearing tales about the American Dream you’ll ever see, complete with wonderful performances across the board from its cast. So, that’s why I’m giving Minari an 8.3.