Minari (AU-PG/UK-12A/US-PG-13)

In a word: Poignant

Minari poster

 

"Minari (the word refers to a fast-growing water celery from Korea) is a poignant and gritty film about family relationships in the face of hardship and the struggle to make a better life. It shows the challenges immigrants face and the need for faith - in each other, in God - that things will eventually get better."

Among the winners at this year's Oscars, Minari is the beautifully understated story of a Korean American family and their efforts to create a better life for themselves.

Jacob (Steven Yeun) and his wife Monica (Yeri Han) have relocated their young family - daughter Anne (Noel Kate Cho) and son David (Alan Kim) - from California to rural Arkansas where Jacob, unbeknownst to his wife, has bought some land to pursue his dream of growing Korean vegetables and then selling them to specialist vendors in a bid to get ahead.

Monica is unimpressed with their new house - a portable home - and she and the children struggle to settle into their new life as Jacob tries to grow his first crop so he and his wife can stop their gruelling work at a local hatchery where they are employed as chicken sexers. The stress of their life is only added to by the fact their son, David, has a serious heart condition.

An eccentric - and strongly religious - local man, Paul (Will Patton), soon turns up and quickly becomes Jacob's right-hand man on the farm. And it's not long before, in need of someone to look after the children while they work, Monica invites her mother Soon-ja (played with energy by Yuh-jung Yoon in an Oscar winning performance) to join the family from where she lives in South Korea. 

Minari (the word refers to a fast-growing water celery from Korea) is a poignant and gritty film about family relationships in the face of hardship and the struggle to make a better life. It shows the challenges immigrants face and the ongoing need for faith - in each other, in God - that things will eventually get better.

Set in the 1980s, it's a narrowly focused film - the action takes place largely on the farm Jacob and his family have made home - and, as well as providing moments of genuine humour and joy, it takes a delicately nuanced approach to issues such as the casual racism the family encounters in their interactions with some of the locals. 

Director Lee Isaac Chung also keeps the pace slow, allowing time for appreciation of the beauty of the rural environment in which the family live as well as the building of tensions between family members as the challenges they are facing gradually stack up.

Complete with a beautiful score, Minari is a lovingly made portrait of one family's experience in balancing the realities of their life against their hopes and expectations. Full of heart.