Minari (2020)

The American Dream painted through the eyes & hardships of immigrants with big dreams and nothing but perseverance juxtaposed with an exposé on mixed-cultural balance and parental guidance, Minari is yet another Best Picture-frontrunner from Korea x A24. 9.2/10.

Plot Synopsis: A Korean American family searches for a better life when they pack their entire belongings and everything they know to move to a small farm in Arkansas, USA.

*Possible Spoilers Ahead*

Official CLC Review

A New Age Of Cinematic Globalism

After Bong Joon-ho & Parasite’s Historic Sweep Of The 2020 Oscars, Cinema Was Never Going To Be Same; One Year Later

Photograph Courtesy Of: A24

‘And Best Picture goes to… Parasite!’ Rewind back to February 9, 2020 at ~11:50PM and the read-out of that sentence sent shockwaves reverberating throughout the film world still being felt ~one year later. The first foreign-language film to ever win the highest honor on cinema’s biggest historical night, as well as a sweep of other top-awards like Best Director, Original Screenplay, International, Prod. Design, & Editing [nominees in the last two] in a year stacked with legendary films like The Irishman, Joker, 1917, Little Women, & Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, Bong Joon-ho catalyzed a new age of cinematic globalism in the most powerful declaration on movies’ biggest stage. Less than one year later, there has been a wildfire of high-pedigree international successors in the biggest bloom-evolution we might’ve ever seen in a single year here at CLC – most memorable of all from the exact same-place: Korea. The American Dream painted through the eyes & hardships of immigrants with big ambitions and nothing but perseverance juxtaposed with an exposé on mixed-cultural balance and parental guidance, Minari is yet another Best Picture-frontrunner from Korea x A24.

A Farm & The American Dream

Lee Isaac Chung Takes Us To A Pastoral Landscape In Rural Arkansas: Immigrants w. Nothing But Ambition, Ideas, & Each Other

Photograph Courtesy Of: A24

Minari follows the Yi family as they move to empty farmland in rural Arkansas to start a new life. The home on the premises is positively-unlivable by most people’s standards: a red/brown hunk of shoddy foundation and poor-design on wheels so flimsy, it’s told it could ‘blow away’ in a natural disaster – like the tornado a brutal God sends as a welcome gift their first night there. There are times when they’re without food, water, or resources – and have to do awful day-jobs they [& anyone would] hate like chicken-sexing for inevitable-slaughter to make-ends-meet while they launch their K-farm project. Their family has multiple health problems [David’s heart condition being metaphoric of the Yi’s and immigrant’s lack of opportunity, luck, or resources keeping both from running free] and the lingering negativity of leaving a more urbanized previous lifestyle in California to gamble and potentially win-big. The relatable and difficult paradox of parenthood Minari presents sacrificing to provide for your kids & family but trying to not scrape by in a mediocre existence hating what you do every day is palpable and powerful. The strain it puts on the relationships and general enjoyment of life is taxing – yet strikingly-representative of the nightmare struggles a vast majority of immigrants face(d) when they first come to America: nothing but the clothes-on-their-backs, big dreams, and insatiable hunger/work-ethic to create a better life and future for their family.

A Fish Out Of Water

Precocious Exposition On Mixed-Cultural Heritage & Minority-Assimilation All POC Experience: The Paradox Of Balancing Two [~Clashing] Antithetical Halves Of Identity

Photograph Courtesy Of: A24

‘They come to America and forget everything’. Not only do we [immigrants and their families; mine coming from Punjab, India a few decades ago] have the external and sociological battlegrounds to overcome, but also the internal strife of mixing two dichotomized personalities and cultural experiences in a new home – painted magically on-screen by Minari. How do we stay true and authentic to our roots and cultural background, yet plod the fine-line of not xenophobically-offputting the people we need to impress and community we crave acceptance by in our new home: whose customs, life-outlook, and experience are totally-divergent? This is 10x-more applicable by the sheer sharpness of antithetical contrast Minari paints between Korea and the hillbilly-haven of Arkansas: a place so wildly-deprived of any other pigmentation, white kids will stare in awe like a new exhibit at the zoo out of disbelief and curiosity seeing someone of Asian-descent. The psychologically-stressful duality can be so caustic that it results in pure adoption of one identification or the other; some communities reject the customs or language of their new environment they don’t owe assimilation and treat it like a lite-version of their old country, while others rebuke/forget all of remnants of their cultural past in pure socialization into their new one – the categorization of the children of the Yi’s and other Korean families of the film’s landscapes. The construct of the film itself reverberates the mixed-cultural/heritage delineation and sharp duality of the film’s protagonists in the fact that it switches between English and Korean language-wise every couple of lines or so: further highlighting brilliantly the contrast and difficulty of tight-rope.

The Parenthood & Family Themes

The Difficulty Of The Landscape Projected Challenges The Grit & Efficacy Of Its Parents – Naturalized Cinematography, Thematic Honor, Idiosyncratic Country/Korean Score

Photograph Courtesy Of: A24

The core principle of mixed-cultural experience is also felt in the experiences and themes of the family, especially when their ‘not-real-grandma’ comes to visit. Minari is foremost a film about relationships: what shapes them, how they can blow in the wind and change in multiple ways just like the grasses or harvest on a farm. The loneliness and isolation of Monica being cast away from her big-city atmosphere with friends and korean churches nearby to a rural landscape she doesn’t enjoy to placate the deep-seeded ambitions of her husband and ameliorate their family’s financial and ideological security makes her sad – and she certainly lets her scathing opinion be known to Mr. Yi. Perhaps too much so in one of the film’s only flaws character-wise, the nagging annoyance she complains and belittles his aspirations to get out of the menial job and sad existence he’s been doing for years while she didn’t even work is vexatious: if he hates his life and wants to try succeeding for everyone instead of just passing by, why can’t you support him and let him try something new? That’s the American Spirit/Dream. Their ‘conversations’ [another dark and important point of the film affecting their children in how vehement screamfests by parents negatively affect the development of kids who hate the sight] lead to the compromise of bringing Monica’s mother in: again used as a prismatic metaphor and exposition-avenue of Korean vs. American cultural dichotomization.

Religion, Healthcare, & Complex Sociology

The Tragedy Of Its Medical Conditions, Religion, Masculinity, & City Vs. Rural Themes View Our Similarities & Differences

Photograph Courtesy Of: A24

The ‘not real grandma’ who comes to visit is one of the film’s funniest [and most cogent] parts. This isn’t your preconception of a withered, gentle, pink onesie-wearing, cookie-baking, white-haired, sweet-as-sugar old lady; Minari’s version of grandma cusses over games of mahjong, mimics wrestling moves from the TV, steals church-tithes when no one’s looking, and openly mocks fat people as well as her own grandchildren for normal coming-of-age activities like peeing the bed. This, elevated to comedic extremes of course, is not-very-uncommon of Asian elders [as I can personally-attest] and a far-different/R-rated-instead-of-PG visualization of grandparents that will shellshock most watching just like it does the Americanized Ti children without any background knowledge. The rough-at-first relationship evolves after a cup of pee and threatening of a beating [the stick being double-symbolized as punishment for wrongdoings to socialize children’s behavior by extreme fashion, but also for superstition and religion like the water-stick the Yi’s pridefully-ignored – but needed in the end] to become heartwarming and familial. The characterization of David and Grandma mirror/antagonize each other in Minari’s brilliant and complex canvas of scripting: David starts the sick one whose condition progressively-worsens upon the extreme stress of a new family landscape, only to heal when he begins to love Grandma while she metaphorically and perhaps literally takes the burden by suffering a stroke herself as David’s heart condition begins to heal. The development of the relationships and characters also opens up several important alternative themes. There’s exposition on parenthood tackling how difficult it is to raise kids especially of mixed-origins walking an extra mile of self-identification and multilateral experience, punish wrongdoings and socialize well-behaved members into society without killing their spirit/individuality, and how much sons look up to their fathers and daughters to their mothers – how important it is to be positive role models even in the toughest and most desolate of circumstances.

The Performances

A Canvas Of Magnificently-Acted/Scripted Characters – From Kim’s David To ‘Not-Real’ Grandma To A Career Performance By Yeun

Photograph Courtesy Of: A24

There’s masculinity cerebration in how men deal with the heavy expectations put on them by society to provide for hungry mouths-to-feed and be successful [which oftentimes breaks any ones who can’t: being exponentially higher-risk to commit suicide than women or any other demographic, as the film shines light on the crisis]. The dual-sided sword of ambition is also expertly-analyzed: being what separates the successes from the failures in real-world contexts, but palpably-dangerous to alienate those you love if you go too far into it like Mr. Yi’s. There’s exposition on building a business, capitalism, its effects on personal and professional life, and sociological debate on rural vs. city life [more people around being a good or bad thing depending on the outlook or what you’re trying to accomplish]. Finally, there’s religion: a major theme across Minari whose God hurls tragic thunderbolts left-and-right at the Yi’s but brings them closer together and teaches a lesson about going against-the-grain in the end – as well as a unifying principle to showcase [in contrastive juxtaposition to the rest of the film] that for all our differences, people have similarities in what we believe in across cultures, communities, and the world. The ending of the film fits in one final futility-of-aspiration theme while metaphorizing the eponymous minari growing by the creek onto immigrants ourselves. The minari grow and spread like wildfire themselves with little external-help/interference in sharp antithesization of the crops the Yi’s give everything to foster growth of only for them all to be eventually set ablaze just like their marriage and family dynamic in the end: a proverb that posits simplicity and celebration/acceptance of who we are instead of coercion. Immigrants oftentimes try to force subjugation of our personalities and cultures to meet the preconceptions of what’s acceptable behavior and cultural/ideological norms of the United States Of America, but it’s often deleterious to our growth like crops on the farm of the nation.

The Futility Of Aspiration & Coercion

The Eponymous Film’s Minari Metaphorize Immigrants Ourselves: Diverse, Able To Make Any Place Home & Bring Our Talents, Better-Growing Naturally: A Lesson For Yi’s

Photograph Courtesy Of: A24

Like the minari plant, we’re diverse in possible usages, able to make any place home, and better-growing when we’re able to be ourselves and not change who we really are – a critical message of parabolic/allegorical importance for all immigrants who need to see this film. These bold and heartfelt ideas are painted beautifully across a gracefully-directed film by Lee Isaac Chung – one with an idiosyncratic mix of visuals and score. The cinematography of Minari is beautiful: a pastoral landscape of endless fields of green and grasslands that reawaken your love of nature many of us have lost plus make you feel the manifest destiny and land-of-opportunity lurking beneath the ground just ready to be plowed. The score is an endearing mix of quirky country acoustic guitars and classically-Asian sonicism like mysterious dynastic flutes, further reverberating the mixed-cultural balance/experience blending two antithetical genres of music while also mimicking the bizarre actions of its God in a great work by Emile Mosseri. Finally, the performances are absolutely sensational: from Youn Yuh-jung’s politically-incorrect bad grandma to Han Ye-Ri’s princess out-of-her-element Monica to Will Patton’s downright-bizarre but passionate Paul to Alan S. Kim’s indescribably-adorable angel-with-a-mischievous-side David [one of the best and most lovable child performances I’ve ever seen: a screen-stealer that will make you laugh, love, and cry if ever there was one] to Steven Yeun’s career lead performance as the consentient, hyperambitious, and masculine Mr. Yi determined to make something of his life – proving he’s got the acting chops to carry far more than The Walking Dead zombie TV series.

Conclusion

One Of The Best Films Of 2020

The American Dream Painted Through The Eyes & Hardships Of Immigrants, Juxtaposed With An Exposé On Mixed-Cultural Balance & Parental Guidance From Korea x A24.

Photograph Courtesy Of: A24

Overall, Minari is one of the best films of 2020 and might just sweep the Oscars for Korea for the second consecutive year. The film paints a gracefully-directed portraiture of The American Dream through the eyes, blood, sweat, and tears of immigrants on a small Arkansas-based farm – big hopes, dreams, and prurience for a comfortable lifestyle and secure future, but nothing except work-ethic, the clothes on their backs, and perseverance in the fact of an often-cruel God. Minari is a tribute to Americana and everything that lures people of color and anyone with an idea here, all while rebuking nostalgia-pandering and presenting a new flavor of cultural-allegory like the kimchi and korean vegetable-farm its grows on American soil: be yourself. The minari being grown by the creekside can be seen as a metaphor for immigrants ourselves: able to be grown/adapt to anywhere, diverse in usages, and best fit-in when we’re not trying too hard to do so – a lesson we all struggle with balancing our cultural heritage with new experiences, and one learnt the hard way by the Yi’s. The screenplay juggles provocative themes of masculinity, health, religion, family, the futility of aspiration, and mixed-cultural balance [even reverberated through the film’s half-half language mixes of Korean and English and Asian/country score-mix] to paint the difficulty of assimilation: a paradoxical dichotomy of split-experience. The performances are sensational – led by a belligerent, consentient, masculine Steven Yuen of The Walking Dead-fame who proves he can elevate far more than a zombie TV series, juxtaposing a slew of fine support characterization/acts from the rowdy mahjong-playing not-real-grandma Soonja to the indescribably-adorable Alan S. Kim who will melt your heart while making you cry and laugh.. at times, simultaneously. After Bong Joon-ho and Parasite’s groundbreaking sweep of The Oscars last-year, I thought for sure there would be back-pats and reversion to a white-central movie landscape – but this is a thunderous reminder that there are just as many cinematic geniuses outside the borders of tinsel-town. The American Dream painted through the eyes & hardships of immigrants with big ambitions and nothing but work-ethic and determinism juxtaposed with an exposé on mixed-cultural balance and parental guidance, Minari is yet another Best Picture-frontrunner from Korea x A24.

Official CLC Score: 9.2/10