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Minari

"...well worth your time"

★★★★½ - STUFF 

- Why this Korean-American drama is movie worth seeing - and cherishing - 

“This isn’t what you promised,” Monica Yi (Yeri Han) opines.

She’s dismayed at the state of their new home – a pre-fab in the middle of the nowhere. She was more than happy with their California home, but husband Jacob (Steven Yeun) wanted a plot of land he could call his own. So, despite their chicken sexing skills earning them far more money back west, the family of four has upped sticks and moved to rural Arkansas, home to “the best dirt in America”.

“Daddy’s going to make a big garden,” Jacob promises daughter Anne (Noel Cho) and son David (Alan S. Kim). However, the latter’s heart condition and a hurricane almost as soon as they arrive has Monica renewing her desire to relocate somewhere closer to town – and a hospital.

Eventually, a compromise is reached – Jacob agrees to Monica’s mother coming to stay – potentially permanently. However, not everyone is pleased with the decision.

Complaining that Grandma Soon-ja (Yuh-jung Youn) smells like Korea, David has a laundry list of her other failings: “Real grandmas bake cookies, don’t swear and don’t wear men’s underwear.” Instigating an unofficial war with her, David’s defiance sparks plenty of consternation in the household, but that’s nothing compared to the crisis facing them when they fail to find an adequate, sustainable water source for their crops.

A deserved winner of an audience award and grand jury prize at last year’s Sundance Film Festival and tipped for more accolades in the upcoming awards season, Minari is the kind of evocative and absorbing family drama that is in short supply these days.

While taking a Korean perspective on the much fabled “American dream”, it also evokes memories of bittersweet and torrid tales as diverse as Field of Dreams and The Mosquito Coast, where one family member is seemingly risking it all in pursuit of a goal that maybe they alone believe in. That said, this definitely not bereft of humour, with the battle between David and Grandma and the kids’ ongoing justifications for drinking Mountain Dew providing many laughs.

As well as elegant pacing, taut direction and a fabulous cast who endearing brings their characters to life (Youn and Kim being the standouts), Minari benefits greatly from the cinematography of Hunt for the Wilderpeople’s Lachlan Milne, who does a terrific job of creating a sense of space and place in a film that truly relies on that.

Twelve months after Parasite swept Hollywood (and the globe), here’s another Korean-infused story that is well worth your time. 

James Croot, STUFF 

Minari is now playing at Light House Cinema! 

(PG - Coarse language) 

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