After last year’s great success of the Korean film “Parasites,” it is a pleasure to see this other interesting, yet totally different, take at a Korean family and their vicissitudes. Directed by Lee Isaac Chung, the film has been nominated for an Oscar in the Best Movie category. Yeun was also been nominated as Best Actor while Yuh-Jung Youn, who plays the wise grandmother, just won the Oscar for Best supporting Actress Award.
Youn, 73, becomes the first South Korean performer to win an Oscar. She is the second actress of Asian descent in the 92-year history of the awards to win in the supporting category, since Miyoshi Umeki won in 1958 for “Sayonara.”
Youn delivered an entertaining and playful speech last night, giddily greeting award presenter Brad Pitt, saying: “Mr. Brad Pitt, finally. Nice to meet you. Where were you when we were filming in person?” (Pitt’s production company, Plan B, produced “Minari” and the Oscar-winning actor is credited as an executive producer.)
Youn was also very humble when accepting the award. “I don’t believe in competition. How can I win over Glenn Close? I’ve been watching her in so many performances,” said Youn. “So this is just all the nominees, five nominees … we play different roles, so we cannot compete [with] each other.”
“Minari,” tells us the story of Jacob Yi (Steven Yeun) and his family. They have just moved to Arkansas to pursue their own elusive American dream. Jacob is very determined that living in a very basic home on an isolated plot of land is a sacrifice that would eventually lead his family to financial success. However, his wife Monica (Yeri Han) is disappointed at the new place. She has doubts from the very beginning. The isolation is also a potential problem if their son, David (Alan S. Kim), gets sick—since the child suffers from a heart murmur.
Jacob plants typical Korean vegetables, which he expects to sell to stores serving the growing local Korean population. However, in the meantime, he and his wife would make their living by sexing chicks at a local farm. It is not a very pleasant job, especially for Monica. The couple’s relationship would experience growing tension, which only subsides when they agree that the maternal grandmother would come to live with them. She would take care of the children while the parents are away working. Soonja (Yuh-Jung Youn) is at first not much welcome by the kids. However, as time passes, she would develop a very good understanding, especially with David. She would often take walks with the children and once would bring seeds of a Korean plant to a small piece of land near a stream. She was confident that the ubiquitous herb would easily adapt to the new territory.
“Minari,” set in the 1980s, provides some of the usual disparities between the Korean and the host American culture, which are generally well-resolved. Although sometimes one feels that some scenes are too slow, the last part of the movie is full of emotional moments, highlighting the resilience of this family of immigrants, determined to fulfill their American dream despite big obstacles.
Onscreen in selected theatres and available on VOD on different platforms. Duration 115 min