Minari: Film Review


I have been hearing nothing but praise for Minari for a really long time – basically since it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival last year – so I had been dying to watch it for months and I had built my expectations ridiculously high, so when I finally got around to see it, I could appreciate how beautiful and amazing it was, but I was expecting more.

This semi-autobiographical movie, based on writer/director Lee Isaac Chung‘s upbringing, follows the Yi family as they relocate from California to Arkansas in search of their own American Dream in the 1980s. Patriarch Jacob (Steven Yeun) is fed up with sexing chickens for his income and spends all their money on buying a plot of land, which he tries to turn into a farm for Korean produce with the help of local man Paul (Will Patton). His wife Monica (Han Ye-ri) isn’t impressed with their new trailer home, living in the middle of nowhere, and their money problems, so their marriage becomes strained. They come to the agreement that her mother Soon-ja (Youn Yuh-jung) can come over from South Korea and live with them and their children Anne (Noel Kate Cho) and David (Alan Kim), who suffers from a heart condition.

Minari is a wonderful, tender, heartwarming film with a terrific screenplay, strong performances all round, and gorgeous cinematography. I loved the character dynamics within the family and how the introduction of Soon-ja – a very unconventional grandma figure – changes them. The family are broke so Jacob works non-stop to make the farm a success, but he becomes obsessed with it and stops making his family a priority. At one point I wondered where it was going to go and how it was going to wrap up, but I didn’t need to worry as the conclusion is very satisfying.

Minari has been nominated for six Oscars, including Best Picture, as well as acting nods for Yeun and Yuh-jung, which I’m so glad about. I’ve been watching The Walking Dead for years so I have been a big champion of Yeun’s movie career since he was killed off the show and I’m thrilled to see him getting recognised for his complex, nuanced emotional work here, while Yuh-jung is a joy to watch as the quirky, foul-mouthed grandma.

There isn’t a weak link among the cast. Ye-ri does well as the wife and mother at her wit’s end, ready to ditch the farm and return to California, Cho’s Anne who is wise beyond her years and looks after David, while Kim is the adorable scene-stealer with fantastic facial expressions. I loved his interactions with Soon-ja so much. Outside of the Korean-American cast, there’s Patton, who is unnerving as the eccentric and devoutly religious farmhand.

I think the hype surrounding Minari was detrimental to my viewing experience as I went in expecting too much and it failed to live up to my super high expectations. I was ever so slightly disappointed because I was waiting for something mindblowingly amazing. If it wasn’t for the hype, I don’t think I would have felt let down at all. Minari deserves all the praise and awards recognition it is getting as it’s such a delightful, life-affirming film.

Available to watch at home, on demand or via virtual cinemas from Friday 2nd April. For more information on platforms and virtual cinemas, please click here. In cinemas once they reopen.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

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