“Minari” Review

Story posted February 17, 2021 in Arts & Entertainment by Ian Thomas.

A24, the studio behind “Midsommar,” “Hereditary” and “The Lighthouse,” has now released “Minari,” a heartwarming tale about chasing the American dream.

The Yi family hails from South Korea and moves to Arkansas for a fresh start. Jacob Yi left his job and home in California to become a crop farmer in 1980s middle America. Beside him is his loyal wife Monica, who begins to doubt the concept of the “American Dream.”

Together, they raise their two children, Dave and Anne. Young Dave battles a heart condition, which endlessly worries his mother, especially when her and her husband are away at the factory, sexing chickens.

These worries eventually compel Monica to move her mother, Soon-Ja, to the United States in order to take care of the children. The Yi family soon find themselves transformed by their new home, a bittersweet development as they adapt to their new home but will never forget what they left behind.

“Minari” at its most simple is about family. Jacob and Monica face the anxiety that every parent is familiar with: “What if I’m not a good parent for my kids?”

Steven Yeun and Han Ye-ri exude this anxiety in their performances from start to finish. Yeun, the “Walking Dead” star, especially nails his performance.

Most of the movie is in Korean, including when the Yi family speaks with each other, but this serves to prove that good acting transcends all languages. The performance is as convincing and impactful as if it were in English, losing nothing to translation.

Ye-ri, playing the loyal but unsure Monica, also delivers an amazing performance. Ye-ri and Yeun provide an emotional married chemistry that makes the viewer feel almost voyeuristic.

You really feel like a fly on the wall during their arguments and heartfelt apologies. Both actors give an excellent performance and both will likely receive award attention.

It's also worth noting that the performances of the younger two actors are also incredible as well. Most audiences are rightfully apprehensive when it comes to movies dependent on child actors, but “Minari” viewers have no reason to fear.

Alan S. Kim and Noel Cho hold their own with endearing and quite often humorous performances. The two children build an interesting chemistry like their mother and father but provide a lighter, funnier side to the film.

Soon-Ja, played by Youn Yuh-Jung, is an oddball character that doesn’t fit the traditional role of grandmother.

At the end of the film, the minari seeds planted by Soon-Ja begin to bloom. The seeds of Korean origin have now taken to the earth of Arkansas and are flourishing, much like the Yi family.

“Minari” is heartwarming without shying away from the realism of migrant life. A typical fish-out-of-water story quickly unfolds into an inspiring story of hardship, struggle, and success. The Yi family’s odyssey is full of authentic emotion, ripe drama, and thrilling performances. Make sure Minari is on your watchlist.

Rating: 4/5


Ian Thomas is a sophomore studying communications. To contact him, email its5054@psu.edu.