Minari (Aspen Film Festival); Grade: B+
Let’s take a break from the AFI Film Festival, to bring you an exclusive early review of Minari! I had access to this new A24 release thanks to the ASPEN film festival, as you already know I had to check this one out as soon as possible.
Minari tells a story about a Korean family led by Jacob (Steven Yeun), whom has moved from California to Arkansas as Jacob will take on his dream of having his own farm/garden. As the family has doubts against Jacob, Jacob has tested the soil and rightfully confirms it’s the best soil in America. Highs and lows will come for Jacob’s family. Whether it be relationship issues, money issues, farming issues, and heck some family issues along the way including an unexpected arrival from Grandma (Yuh-Jung Youn).
The Cinematography was pretty damn good, lots of lovely shots of this farm area Jacob is building from scratch, the small creek, as well as lovely simple shots of nature and town pieces as well. The Score was also pretty good, bringing such lovely classical music to the table. The cast all in all was pretty great as a whole. Steven Yeun playing the father Jacob had a pretty good performance. The frustration and doubts against Jacob moving from a fairly comfortable life in California, to try to build an empire out of a farm was fairly reasonable, especially the hardships of raising a family. However I admire the fact Jacob that he was going to follow through with his dreams and not let anyone get in the way of pulling off success, of creating a Korean vegetable/fruit garden in America. Jacob was also strong in providing discipline amongst his young as well, a likable and responsible father figure character indeed.
Yeri Han playing the mother of the family played a pretty good performance as well. While the mother tries to be fully supportive of Jacob’s hopes and desires, she can’t help but pull off harsh criticism as they fled a pretty good life out in California, to basically a house with wheels on it. We understand the hardships of their relationship and also wanting the best for her children, however would’ve appreciated a little more support for her husband as he’s trying his very best. I thought the children played by Alan Kim and Noel Cho both played pretty good performances, both delivered playful heartfelt performances that delivered emotion and laughter as well.
I thought the grandmother played by Yuh-Jung Youn had a pretty great performance, as she was a terrific comedic relief. She delivered many genuine laughs out of me, a character in which certainly has a fairly fun lackadaisical personality. Youn also delivered in the third act, as the character does go through a tragic moment as it was fairly believable. I really enjoyed this character until the finale, which I’ll get into in a minute. Will Patton playing the family’s friend/co-worker was pretty good as well, a typical passionate religious follower out in the south. Some scenes in which the character felt extremely awkward but far out, but it’s done very respectfully and very realistic, as one can believe people like him are around in this very southern area.
I do have some flaws with Minari. The momentum of the film dies a little bit down for me in the third act, as the high end energy wears off as the pacing does slow down a bit. The finale... I was extremely pissed off by, as one characters decision was EXTREMELY dumbfounded, leaving the audience shocked and most certainly anger. But here’s the thing: The grandmother knows she now is dealing with a medical issue, so she shouldn’t be up and about in the first place. It’s one thing to pick up and throw things in the garbage, I didn’t have any issue with that as that was a sweet gesture to help out Jacob. But it’s the thing she does after, that makes you go... Now why the hell would you do that for?! Like where was the logic in that decision making?! It straight up pissed me off and there was no justification in wanting to do that, I’m still mad by the thought of this. Minari honestly compares to the likes of The Southerner, a film we have discussed on a Retro Talk earlier this year, fairly similar plot and vibe.
Aside from those flaws: Really enjoyed Minari. The story at hand felt truly personal, as the film maker/writer said this was based around his own livelihood growing up, as you can tell how each character and each situation that was crafted felt extremely real and personal. It’s definitely a realistic narrative of a family moving on from a comfortable setting, to a new setting in which challenges and struggles are bound to happen, as small things at hand create big problems amongst arguments with the parents. I like how this film does well on both aspects of Drama and Comedy. The dramatic aspect is done fairly well as there is a fair amount of emotion amongst the characters, as you can sense the hardships everyone is going through. I’m surprised in the fact there was comedy in this film and I truly thought it was a strength for Minari. There are tons of great comedic scenes in this film, that’ll have you laughing your ass off, especially during the Church sequence as well. It’ll be definitely one that’ll be loved by the audience, feel extremely personal for some whomever has done farm working, or whom has ever thought of a dream so big everyone was against you, but you do it anyway.
Overall, Minari was a pretty damn good film. I highly recommend checking this one out, hopefully will be released soon in due time, but most importantly should be cherish on the big screens. -Mitch Smietana