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Movies3 min read


A brief synopsis...Minari tells the story of one father's dream to build a farm and the experiences of a Korean American family moving to Arkansas in hopes of seeing it come to fruition. It explores the essence of family and what it's like learning to live in a new home, one with wheels on the bottom.

When I first saw the trailer for the movie, it caught my attention. I am Korean American, with parents having immigrated to the States and soon after grandparents to watch the kids. There hasn't been a movie (or one that I have watched) that I have personally identified with. A movie that resonates with my upbringing of living in America, with Korean parents working to make ends meet and learning to adapt, with Korean grandparents that spoke only Korean and brought with them a culture new to me than what I was used to at school. So, I made it a goal to eventually watch this...specifically on the big screens.

I was able to see Minari at a small theater in Closter, NJ with a few of my family members. A theater small enough that there was only three others present during the movie. At first, I had planned to just take my mom but on that day, my grandma approached me in my room and asked if I had anything going on that evening. I bought her a ticket on the spot. This was a cool, memorable experience and the first time I have ever watched a movie in theaters with my grandma. She also mentioned that it had been a decade or so since her last time in a theater.

Movie Musings thoughts on the movie. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I believe what the movie does best is depicting the inner and intimate relationships of a family working to make ends meet and living in pursuit of a better future. And this experience is not exclusive to Korean Americans, but includes any family of any culture. The arguments the parents had over dissenting thoughts on the farm and priorities, the growing affection between the rebellious grandson and forgiving grandmother, and the overall conversations between the family felt real. The story leads you to empathizing with much of every member.

It also worth noting that most of the movie is spoken in korean. I am terrible at korean...BUT can at least pick up the nuances in the dialogue. Knowing the spoken language definitely helped to drive emotions behind the dialogue, things that can not be accurately conveyed through subtitles.

Below I list some specific moments that stood out to me:

  • The very first argument between the parents in the mobile home.
  • The boy being fed traditional korean medicine (한약) by the grandma. Something I also hated to drink when I was young.
  • The father hiding the fact that he tapped into the home's water supply to water the crops in the face of the knowing mother.
  • The mother tearing up after the grandmother brought homely Korean ingredients.
  • The grandmother's grief as she watched the harvest from the season go up in flames.
  • The argument between the parents behind the grocery story in town.

But the highlight of the movie was...the performance by Han Ye-Ri (한예리) as the mother. She played the character, of a hard-working mother striving to keep the family afloat and unified, incredibly well. The scene behind the grocery store where she painfully questions the priority of the father is a testament to this. It is my favorite scene in the movie.

Outside of what's written above, I don't have much else to say other than that Han Ye-Ri is the GOAT. I really appreciate the director, Lee Isaac Chung, for taking on this project and working to tell a story of life from a Korean American perspective. A story that does not seek to cheaply attract attention through shock on the racial implications of an asian family moving to the southern U.S. But instead, one that interprets the meaning of family. He also adds to the movement of giving a voice to Asian Americans in the entertainment industry, which is awesome and inspiring.