George Clark’s review published on Letterboxd:
Middleburg Film Festival
Minari is a 2020 American drama film, written and directed by Lee Isaac Chung and stars Steven Yeun, Han Ye-ri, Alan Kim, Noel Kate Cho, Youn Yuh-jung, and Will Patton. The story follows a Korean-American family who move into a tiny Arkansas farm in search of their own “American Dream”. However, the family home changes completely with the arrival of their sly, foul-mouthed, but incredibly loving grandmother. Big thank you to Jason Huang for telling me about these tickets!
There’s something special about Minari and for once it’s not because it’s an A24 film. It’s heartwarming yet heartbreaking at the same time. This semi-autobiographical story from director Lee Isaac Chung feels incredibly personal, and that’s because it is to him. The memories of his childhood shared in such a tender, heartfelt way must, above all else, be incredible to watch on screen. You can really tell how much this film means to him as the storyline progresses and honestly, seeing his memories play out on screen was fantastic. His relationship with his Grandma is probably one of the most unique, funny and heartbreaking of the year as their bond strengthens and he finally learns to love her. Minari surely is an essential viewing for any Asian-American’s and whilst I am neither myself, this still amazed me and left me in complete awe at times.
Yet, it’s not just the storyline that’s incredible to watch but every shot of this film is visually stunning. When trying to achieve a visually stunning film it can sometimes mean that some of the narrative is lost along the way, yet that’s not the case with Minari. Of course, Minari’s cinematography is top notch but so is the story and narrative Lee Isaac Chung is going for. This all amounts to a film that’s both visually appealing whilst holding a storyline you want to see more off. By the end of the film you care about the family, you’ve witnessed their hardships and want them to move forward and that’s honestly the best compliment I can give any film. I cared about what happened to them, I wanted them to succeed and when occasions occur and they don’t, I really felt bad for them. When a film does that, gets you to connect with the characters and make you want to see more of them, well that’s honestly the most important thing for me and that’s exactly what Minari did.
As usual Steven Yeun delivers an incredible performance. Being my favourite character in The Walking Dead (from what I’ve seen of it anyway) there’s no doubt in my mind, he’s a top actor and his performance in this only proves that more. As well as Yeun, Han Ye-ri also gives quite the emotional performance as his wife. However, despite Will Patton (who arguably gave one of my favourite performances) and Noel Cho both giving great performance, it’s Alan S. Kim as David and Yuh-Jung Youn as the Grandmother that really stand out. As previously mentioned their relationship develops throughout into one that’s incredible heartwarming and tender to watch. This allows both actor and actress to give it their all, as their chemistry alongside each other, the fun they have and quarrels all make for a film that’s both fun and quite emotive to watch as it nears its conclusion.
Minari offers quite the engaging and emotional view on the hardships some immigrants go through in search of “The American Dream”. This raw, semi-autobiographical story vividly remembered from the experiences of director Lee Isaac Chung allows him to transform the specificity of his childhood into a film that’s both warm and tender whilst also allowing the audience to film the pain and hardship he once experienced himself firsthand. Whether tragic or beautiful, each scene draws in the viewer with its breathtaking beauty and emotional core and for that, and everything I’ve previously mentioned, Minari will go down as one of the best releases of 2020 thus far and another incredible A24 film that I loved.
Are you looking forward to Minari and if you’ve seen it, what did you think of it?