Film Review – Minari (2020)

Title – Minari (2020)

Director – Lee Isaac Chung (Lucky Life)

Cast – Steven Yeun, Yeri Han, Noel Cho, Yuh-jung Youn

Plot – Korean couple Jacob (Yeun) and Monica (Han) move to a rural property in Arkansas in the 1980’s with their two children and grandmother Soonja (Youn) in hope of starting a successful farming business and living the American dream.

“Remember what we said when we got married? That we’d move to America and save each other?”

Review by Eddie on 01/03/2021

A film that is very likely to appear heavily at the upcoming 2021 Oscar ceremony, Lee Isaac Chung’s heartfelt slice of life drama that is based in part around his own family experiences is a lovely little tale that is likely to capture the hearts of many viewers who bare witness to its simple charms, even if this is a film that never escalates into something grand and utterly unforgettable.

Produced by Brad Pitt’s heavy hitting production company Plan B and starring hugely impressive Walking Dead alumni Steven Yeun (proving that Burning was no fluke), Minari focuses its tight gaze on Yeun’s Jacob and his wife Monica’s experience’s moving to the rural surrounds of Arkansas in the United States as they aim to make a living farming the lands, all the while dealing with their two young children and Monica’s card loving grandmother Soonja (a scene stealing and hopefully soon to be Oscar nominated Yuh-jung Youn).

The film is content too keep the attention solely on Jacob and Monica as they navigate their way through Jacob’s dream of graduating from chicken sorting facilities too being a man providing for his family through the sweat of his own brow and despite what the marketing/trailers may make you think Minari is about, it’s certainly not a typical feel good fish out of water family drama as Chung refuses to shy away from the harsh realities of such dreams that can be shattered and broken in an instant.

Filled with ample drama and incident heavy moments, the greatest downside to Minari is the fact that there never feels like a real driving force is present in the film.

Jacob and Monica are likable but we never fully get to understand what drives them or makes them tick and the films plot can at times get bogged down in repetitive moments rather than creating new or unexpected ones and its a shame that what we end up getting narratively isn’t as engaging as it could’ve been, especially as the films rather subdued end game plays out.

What is wholly impressive and captivating throughout is a string of awards worthy turns.

Steven Yuen is understated but rock solid as Jacob while Yuh-jung Youn as Soonja is a joy to watch. It’s in these small moments of beautiful performing, Chung’s humanly centered direction and the magical score of Emile Mosseri that Minari shines in a way that will undoubtedly inspire some viewers while leaving others enjoying their time but not installing in them any long lasting memories of a family trying their best to unlock the American dream.

Final Say –

Well-shot, performed and captured, Minari is a pleasant slice of life diversion but a lack of inspired narrative choices or moments of an unforgettable nature hold this lovingly staged awards darling back from greatness.

3 1/2 untypical grandmothers out of 5  

5 responses to “Film Review – Minari (2020)

  1. I recently saw Minari because of it being a major awards contender. I did think it was good, but I wasn’t crazy for it like I thought I would be. And I think you hit the nail on the head on why I don’t love it: there’s no real narrative driving force or stand out, unforgettable moments. I’m glad I’m not the only who’s not totally in love with it, because it make me feel kind of like an asshole.

    Still, I really loved Steven Yuen in it. I’ve been a fan of him since The Walking Dead and I still need to check him out in Burning). I also really loved the character of Soonja and Youn Yuh-Jung’s performance, as well as Will Patton’s Paul.

    I look forward to see what Lee Isaac Chung does in the future. I still think this is an overall solid movie.

    • Totally 100% with you mate. I was really looking forward to this film and I did enjoy it but I don’t understand where some of the absolute 5 out of 5 star reviews are coming from.
      I was really shocked how the narrative just never gripped me, it was just a slice of life tale and I get that but I never felt like their was a gripping driving force pushing things forward.
      A nice film but not an all-timer.

      • I think the problem is how the film is framed through David’s perspective, so things like Jacob’s struggle with his farm, something that should be engaging, really isn’t.

      • Yep almost shunned to the side in many ways. I certainly never felt a deep emotional connection to anything going on, maybe I am cold-hearted but yeh nothing here really drew me under a spell.

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