This beautiful testament to family, and the pursuit of dreams, is delectable.
“Minari” is an herb used in many Korean dishes. Here it’s used as a pivotal part of the story and a metaphor, too.
The story is simple: the Yi family has moved to Arkansas, where the father, Jacob (Steven Yeun, “Okja”) has a dream of being a farmer and growing Korean vegetables. His skeptical wife Monica (Han Ye-ri), isn’t so sure, especially when she first sees the trailer where the family will live.
Their son David (the astonishing Alan Kim) has some trouble adapting, especially when his grandmother comes to stay. She has the little boy drink herbs, possibly for David’s heart condition. Among David’s other challenges is his bed-wetting.
He’s not too crazy – to put it mildly – about his grandmother Soonja (Yuh-jung Youn,) who upsets the family’s precarious existence. Grandmother brings gifts including Korean chili pepper flakes, anchovies, and minari seeds.
“Grandma smells like Korea,” says David, who wanted a, well, more grandmotherly grandma. She slowly begins to win him over.
Meanwhile, Monica joins an agriculture operation of sorting baby chicks, and their daughter Anne, David’s older sister, begins to adapt to her new surroundings while the family is met with bias, well-meaning awkwardness and sincere welcome.
In 1980, director Lee Isaac Chung’s family moved to Arkansas, so it’s not surprising that this film feels so personal.
The superb cast delivers wonderful performances. Will Patton is marvelous in a small but entertaining role as a neighbor who helps out.
The cinematography is gorgeous, and the score sublime. The lovely “Rain Song” rounds out the quiet beauty of the film – you can listen to it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bWAvMosdnC0
It’s lovely. You’ll be glad to get to know the Yis and one of 2020’s best films.
Running time: One hour and 55 minutes.
Rated: PG-13 for coarse language and adult themes.
At Cinemark, Davenport; Palms 10, Muscatine; and streaming on as of Feb. 26 on several platforms, including including Amazon Prime, Google Play, iTunes and Vudu.