[MOVIE REVIEW] “Minari” shows the difficulties of tackling the American dream on Ozarks soil

Chung did an amazing job with capturing the raw emotions and fears of an isolated immigrant family, and we all felt it through the screen.

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The movie follows themes of strong family bonds and struggling from culture shock, which are frequently portrayed in classic immigrant stories.

Lee Isaac Chung’s “Minari” was an immersive and emotional experience, documenting the immigrant story behind the Yi family moving out to the Ozarks. Led by the father, Jacob (Steven Yeun), and his dream of starting a Korean farm on the soil, the mother Monica (Yeri Han) and children move out with him, far differing from their city life in California. The movie follows themes of strong family bonds and struggling from culture shock, which are frequently portrayed in classic immigrant stories. Minari refers to the leafy vegetable popular in Korean cooking that Monica’s mother Soonja (Yon Yujung) planted by the creek, which was one of the primary water sources for the 5-person family. The children David (Alan Kim) and Anne (Noel Kate Cho) are witnessing their family struggle for success, watching their parents relentlessly chase the American dream.

This film is also an autobiographical tale, as Chung was a Korean-American that grew up on a farm in Arkansas in the 80s. He knows exactly what themes are present in a story like this, and he displayed them carefully and thoroughly. There is conflict between Monica and Jacob’s ideals, and their desires for assimilating into American culture. Jacob is definitely chasing the “American dream” with his actions, and carries himself like a southern farmer. He does this with his desires towards working in manual labor when stressed, wearing a gimme cap, and his pocket cigarette pack. Monica, however, frequently reminisces on her life in the city, and is clearly distressed by living in the countryside. She’s desperately trying her best to assimilate, but is still uncomfortable by everything nonetheless.

There is conflict between Monica and Jacob’s ideals, and their desires for assimilating into American culture.”

The supporting characters are just as harming, as Jacob befriends Paul (Will Patton) to work on his farm. He’s an middle-aged evangelical man who served in Korea with the US army. He’s constantly trying to banish spirits from their home, and mumbling prayers and hymns throughout the movie. On Sundays, he drags around a homemade crucifix instead of attending church.
Youn’s character, Soonja, is another striking character in the film. She’s witty and mischievous, enforcing how Monica’s roots are more urban than Jacobs. Once the grandmother enters the story, she takes over her daughter’s house and infuses it with her life and wisdom.
Chung did an amazing job with capturing the raw emotions and fears of an isolated immigrant family, and we all felt it through the screen. The human behavior seems so natural and symbolic. This film is entirely unique and beautifully shot.

Rating: ★★★★★