FILM REVIEW // Minari (2020)
I’m glad I waited until cinemas reopened to catch up on this year’s Oscar contenders. Minari is a gorgeous film. Director Lee Isaac Chung tells a story, based closely on his own childhood experiences, of a Korean family who have moved to America in hope of prospering - the father (Jacob) is ambitious and wants to start a farm, the mother (Monica) is concerned that he’s neglecting the welfare of his family, in particular their young son David who has a dangerous heart condition. David is perhaps the central character in the film, and its heart; it is mostly told from his perspective. What’s more, the ever-present danger of his heart failing (it is established right off the bat that running is a health risk for him) kept me guessing when something would go wrong, and hugely invested in his safety. When you realise that a film could destroy you inside depending on what it does to the characters, that’s when you know it’s succeeded in creating empathy - which I think should be one of the primary goals of any film.
I particularly enjoyed the great, diverse range of characters that are brought to life on the screen - Soonja, the somewhat irresponsible grandmother; Paul, a religious nut who means well and touchingly starts to become part of the Yi family; Jacob, a proud Korean who becomes overly fixated on career success until it almost destroys him and his family; even minor characters who appear only for one scene are well realised. The film feels extremely authentic, and it’s mostly because of how carefully handled each character is. The actor for Soonja - Youn Yuh-jung - took home the Oscar for best supporting actress this year, and it is fully well-deserved. She played the comedic moments of the character extremely well, then the tragic ones perhaps even better, and it was a gift to watch her rocky relationship with 7-year-old David evolve over time.
Minari’s themes of family and the American Dream shine through its story very clearly. It’s a remarkably touching film which you simply must see. Last but not least, the soundtrack by Emile Mosseri is captivating and is one of those film soundtracks which I’ve immediately wanted to listen to on its own (I’m listening to it as I write this review!) I feel a little betrayed by the director, as he’s slated to direct the upcoming live action remake of Your Name (perhaps the last film which should ever get a remake) but at least he’s proven his abilities to me with this great contribution to cinema. I’ll be rewatching Minari soon.