Minari

This beautiful little family story is full of humor, warmth, and hardship, that stumbles in the end for me.

The film follows the Yi family, Korean immigrants who after working for years finally buy their own land Arkansas in the 1980’s. The way this Korean family struggles with the locals, money, and their own dreams makes up the plot of the film, but the story is all about family.

We follow this family through the eyes of David Yi played by Alan Kim. He’s the youngest child of Jacob and Monica played by Steven Yuen and Han Ye-ri. Jacob wants to become a farmer and work the land. Monica wishes the had stayed in California. When the stress becomes too much they bring Monica’s mother to live with them. This is the wily, foul mouthed, spitfire grandma Soon-ja, played by Youn Yuh-jung.

This is a movie that is full of feeling for me. I felt the disappointment of Monica as they see their crappy house for the first time. (It doesn’t even have front steps to get in.) I feel Jacob’s frustration as he tries to raise crops with dwindling water reserves. I feel David’s confusion about his grandmother who doesn’t act like any grandmother he’s ever seen. This movie is an empathy machine. I feel for them and understand them even though for the most part they are speaking a language I don’t understand.

The film is full of little moments that really charmed me. I don’t want to give any of them away because they were so full of warmth and surprise I’d hate to spoil them for anyone. I laughed and smiled in warm recognition throughout the movie, and I think you will too.

The biggest downside for me is the ending. This is one of those movies that ends without a definitive conclusion. This is often done to make the audience think about the story beyond the theater. Too often it feels like the filmmakers forget to come up with an ending, and just said “forget it, let the audience figure it out for us.” This ending feels disappointing to me because it left too much unresolved and too many serious thematic moments were left hanging. I just wanted more from the ending. I think a stronger finish that tied up more of the themes would have landed better for me. As it is, I don’t feel cheated or disappointed by the conclusion.

I definitely recommend this movie. It’s a lovely slice of life that puts things into a different perspective. We get to walk around in this family’s shoes for a couple of hours, and I think that’s really worth while.

This was definitely my cup of tea. You can rent it online or check it out in theaters. A-

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