Perusing the American Dream has been a common theme throughout the history of U.S. cinema, but rarely has it been addressed so effectively and with such economy.

For Jacob Yi (Steven Yeun) that dream is embodied in 50 acres of rich bottomland in 1980s Arkansas, on which he is determined to grow Korean vegetables so he and his skeptical wife Monica (Yeri Han) can quit their mind-numbing jobs as chicken sexers. 

To this end, he has transplanted his Korean-American family from California (kids Alan Kim and Noel Cho) followed soon from South Korea by a scene-stealing grandma (Youn Yuh-jung) Rounding out the note-perfect main cast is a nearly unrecognizable and quite amusing Will Patton as a Christian wacko who proves helpful in a variety of ways. 

Writer/director Lee Isaac Chung approaches his partly autobiographical subject methodically and with subtlety, and not a small amount of love. Every unforced frame rings true. The cinematography is unassuming but breathtaking. Soon you forget the phrase “immigrant experience” — and even the subtitles — and see it for the universal comment on the human condition that it is. 

Go see this fine film about what it means to be a family. Minari is disarmingly radical, utterly engrossing and so relatable you will certainly recognize aspects of yourself. (115 min)

Japan release date: March 19, 2021


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