Away from Jacob’s (Steven Yeun) farmland, shaded by trees and dampened by patches of water, minari – an East-Asian herb – planted by grandma Soon-ja (Youn Yuh-jung) grows. “Minari is truly the best,” she says. “It literally grows anywhere… rich or poor, anyone can enjoy it and be healthy.” Like the American Dream, minari is democratic, a great leveller.

Jacob and his wife Monica, son David, and daughter Anne, move from California to rural Arkansas. There, he plans on growing Korean produce on their plot of land while working with Monica sexing chickens at a hatchery. To watch the kids, Monica’s mum Soon-ja comes from Korea to join them in their trailer.

Quiet miracles – and a few omens – are sprinkled throughout Minari. Its lush greens and wide-open skies are shot like heaven, full of potential and life. Jacob’s altar is his own Garden of Eden, while Monica longs for a church. For her, church is faith, community, belonging. Restless and friendless at home, a local place of worship is of great comfort, which Jacob finds in his devotion to his farm.

David, an incredible child performance from Alan Kim, has a heart murmur. Soon-ja’s zest for life – all the film’s funniest moments are hers – is the perfect medicine, encouraging him to make the most of every minute. They are two child-like souls plagued by their bodies, limited by their physical capabilities but often found causing mischief. They are life happening at its opposite ends while Jacob and Monica battle with life’s very foundations – their family, their income, their sense of home.

This semi-autobiographical film by director Lee Isaac Chung creeps up on you. As this delicate and gentle film explodes into action, it becomes clear how much is at stake. A timeless family tale of entangled emotional and financial struggles, Minari is majestic.

RATING: 4/5


INFORMATION

CAST: Steven Yeun, Han Ye-ri, Alan Kim, Noel Kate Cho, Youn Yuh-jung, Will Patton

DIRECTOR: Lee Isaac Chung

WRITER: Lee Isaac Chung

SYNOPSIS: A Korean-American family move to rural Arkansas with the hope of building a life for themselves.