Minari is a moving and meaningful movie that perfectly encapsulates the ultimate struggle that is the American dream. We follow this family through highs and lows, but it always feels real. The dynamics between each of the characters are very well-established, though if I had one pet peeve it would probably be that the daughter character doesn’t really have much growth or strong moments throughout but she tends to fade in the background a little bit. There’s a rawness here and the story is told through a lens that longs to show us the importance of melding different cultures with our own.
Director Lee Isaac Chung lets these characters breathe and punctuates some of the simplest moments with an effective level of relatability and familiarity. Some of my favorite scenes were with the grandma, like when David tricks her into drinking his own pee or the tender way she tries to ‘tough love’ him into accepting her. The ensemble cast is great (and David/Alan S. Kim) is the cutest child known to man) but my favorite performance here comes from Steven Yeun’s hard-working and extremely motivated father figure. He’s the anchor for this family and he never stops struggling to better things for them all. I had some ideas about where the story would take us, but the narrative is very pared-down, focusing entirely on the family at the core of it all. In a way, this laser-focus makes Minari stand out among the deluge of biopics from this Oscar season. There’s an aura of unpredictability here that’s fresh and exciting to watch. The cinematography is downright stunning at times. I wanted something just slightly more from the ending, but otherwise this is a masterpiece with a very clear vision and a beautiful message about immigration and the American dream.