Film: Minari (12)
- Credit: Altitude Films
Being the experiences of an ex-pat Korean family in the 80s, trying to live the American dream, as seen in 70s TV show The Little House On The Prairie. Wife Monica (Han) is less than pleased when, after ten years in California, husband Jacob (Yeun) decides to uproot to Arkansas and start a farm while living out of a mobile home. She gets her own back by bringing the mother-in-law (Youn) over from Korea for support.
Minari is a simple, humble little film which is both its charm and its disappointment. A family trying to make a go of it on the land is the fundamental American story: the whole point of the damn place. But it isn't easy. Of the TV show Little House On The Prairie it was said that whenever ratings took a dip they'd blind another child. In Minari, the Yi family suffer multiple hardships: their youngest son David has a heart condition; the farming is hit by various setbacks; Jacob and Monica argue constantly.
The plot is melodramatic but the storytelling is calm and relaxed. Chung leaves lots of gaps for you us to fill in. The children will meet someone for the first time and the next time we see them they are best friends. You appreciate not having everything spelled out for you but it does glide over events. Logically, the strained relationship between Jacob and Monica and their different interpretations of what their American dream should be – adventure vs security - would be the film's heart, but the couple are peripheral figures.
Chung's semi-autobiographical film makes David the focal point. In the role Alan S. Kim is a charming little scamp: occasionally naughty but instantly forgivable. Iconic Korean performer Yuh-jung Youn is the loveably unorthodox granny and she fights him hard for every scene, but he still takes the film. Their relationship is the heart of the film. Because he's American born he resents a grandma who plays cards, talks dirty and doesn't bake cookies. She is a stereotypical Korean granny, not the American archetype he's been taught to expect. Such identity confusion runs through this American film which won the Best Foreign language film at the Golden Globes. 3/5 stars.
Directed by Lee Issac Chung. Starring Steven Yuen, Yeri Han, Alan S. Kim, Yuh-jung Youn, Noel Kate Cho, and Will Patton. Running time: 115 mins.