Review: ‘Minari’ tells story with heart-warming visuals

Kimmy Dang
Contributing Writer

From left, Steven Yeun, Alan Kim, Yuh-Jung Youn, Yeri Han and Noel Cho in “Minari,” inspired by writer-director Lee Isaac Chung’s life. Photo by Josh Ethan Johnson/A24/TNS

Minari” has shaken the history of Academy Awards with heart-warming visuals.

Released in 2020, “Minari” introduces the scenic life on the rural farmland of Arkansas with a mischievous seven-year-old boy, David, and a careless tomboyish grandmother who, “sleep in boyshorts.”

Giving more than the immigrant narrative, viewers are introduced to intimate and vulnerable moments of the ugly and the beauty in family relationships. Edging the audience with suspense and innuendos for trouble to come, to only having it subside counters the viewer’s expectations in a surprising way. The children are faced with racial insensitivity by others their age out of innocence and curiosity. Aspirations being rooted to reality because of money become relatable themes of family functions.

Jacob (Steven Yuen) wants a fresh start in his career as a farmer and “needs to see me succeed at something for once.” Monica (Han Ye-Ri), his wife, was doubtful of the “hillbilly” life in a trailer home away from the city. Seeing how it’s not financially secure for the children’s future, they argued whether this was for the family or the farm.

Given so much attention already, Youn Yuh-Jung, who played as grandmother Soonja, did an excelling job playing as the carefree, tomboyish, gambling grandmother. Soonja was newly introduced to David, since she never met him in past family reunions, and was always trying to be involved with the children and their American lifestyle of Mountain Dews and canned pastas.

David’s growth from hating his grandmother because she doesn’t act like one and because, “she smells like Korea,” to teaching his friend the Korean card game ‘godori’ and harvesting minaris down the creek with Soonja. Witnessing their strengthened bond it becomes difficult for viewers to watch either of them at their most vulnerable times.

On April 25, the night of The Oscars, Youn Yuh-Jung was the first Korean woman to have won an Oscar as Best Supporting Actress. She gave her appreciation to the Academy award members, casts and director of “Minari.”

In honor of the award, Yuh-Jung made a humbling comment about the Oscars.

“See, I don’t believe in competition. How can I win over Glenn Close? I’ve been watching her so many performances. All the nominees—five nominees—we are the winners for different movies; we play a different role. So we cannot compete with each other,” Yuh-Jung said.

Based on audience reviews found on Rotten Tomatoes, the majority had positive responses.

Richard James Havis from South China Morning Post said, “Chung’s gaze remains on his characters, and the film engages because the viewer becomes party to his gentle observations of life in motion.”

An audience named Mathew S. said, “Overflowing with love, passion, and truth, Minari is the must-see film of the season. Featuring impressive cinematography, strong writing, and an incredible ensemble, the film tells a powerfully relatable story about family, sacrifice, resilience, and the beauty of small and unexpected victories.”

Another film similar to “Minari,” when it comes to creating a semi auto biography is “The Farwell,” directed by Lulu Wang. Protagonist Billi and her family moved back to China after receiving news that their grandmother was ill. The family reunion was disguised as a wedding for everyone’s last good-bye to the matriarch – not knowing she only had a week left to live.

“Minari,” can be streamed through Amazon Prime, Google Play, Vudo, Redbox and Direct TV for $20. Tickets can be purchased for one of A24’s virtual screenings, which will give you a four-hour window to watch the film.

The film premiered at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival and won the Golden Globe Awards under Foreign Language Film, won Best Supporting Actress for Youn Yuh-Jung at The Oscars, and 21 nominations from five different awards.

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