Minari ★★★★★

In 2019, two totally separate entities dominated the culture of cinema: South Korea (thanks entirely to Bong Joon-ho) and A24 (thanks to, among others, Robert Eggers and the Safdie brothers). The next year, these two titans of film-lover fandom joined forces Voltron-style to bring us Lee Isaac Chung's Minari. I can't quite decide if I like this better than Nomadland yet, but it's a pretty damn tight race for the crown.

Like Nomadland, Minari takes a critical look at hardships facing common folk in America who simply yearn for a sense of deep-seated fulfillment. And like Nomadland, Minari opts to observe these trials and tribulations through a decidedly non-defeatist vantage point. The obstacles are very much present, and Lee never lets you forget it, but there's a warmth and sensitivity to the presentation of it all that always makes you feel like things might possibly work out.

Emile Mosseri's score is nothing short of miraculous, on the same level as Soul, blissfully carrying you with each note like you're on Cloud 9. It's the kind of score that I can already tell I'll be listening to nonstop this year, fitting awkwardly into my 2021 Spotify Wrapped alongside Daft Punk, Big K.R.I.T. and Madlib. Lachlan Milne's cinematography makes potent use of natural lighting and wide angles that capture the vastness of the problematic plot of land upon which this family has rested so much of their livelihood. It really sells the idea of capturing beauty in simplicity, which is Minari's greatest achievement.

What truly strengthens Minari, though, is the absolutely adorable family at its centre. Everyone involved in this film, both onscreen and off, deserves Oscar recognition. Steven Yeun is as reservedly poignant as ever. Almost every scene is like that one yawn in Burning that transformed him from "that Asian guy in the zombie show I don't watch" to "that Asian guy who needs to be in every damn thing!" He seems to be sharing the bulk of the awards consideration he deserved for Burning with Youn Yuh-jung, who is just as show-stopping as the foulmouthed but golden-hearted granny. Alongside the quiet frustration, curiosity and rigidity of Han Ye-ri, Alan Kim and Noel Kate Cho, this family unit becomes the easiest group imaginable to want to root for. It's a family whose strengths lie together, while constantly on the verge of ripping themselves apart.

[This really is a gorgeous piece of filmmaking from every perspective, so whatever sort of management switch up at A24 caused their post-Lady Bird Oscar campaigns to be complete horseshit, can we maybe improve upon that within the next few weeks? Thanks!]

2020 Ranked.

A24 Ranked.

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