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minari

★★★★★

director: Lee Isaac Chung (abigail harm)

starring: Steven Yeun, Han Ye-ri, Youn Yuh-jung and will patton

 

REVIEWER: lyall carter

A Korean family starts a farm in 1980s Arkansas.

While New Zealand doesn’t get a summer season of blockbusters, we get a summer of award season films instead. Minari is one such film that should scoop a lot of major gongs come award time. Minari is an ode to the American dream, a tribute to the indomitable human spirit and a timely reminder of the importance of family. Minari is a cinematic triumph.

 

Minari follows a Korean-American family that moves to a tiny Arkansas farm in search of their own American Dream. The family home changes completely with the arrival of their sly, foul-mouthed, but incredibly loving grandmother. Amidst the instability and challenges of this new life in the rugged Ozarks, Minari shows the undeniable resilience of family and what really makes a home.

 

On the surface Minari is a gentle, wistful family drama about a family attempting to live the American dream. It is filled with gorgeous shots of the Arkansas countryside and lush green fields bursting from the silver screen. Director Chung manages to find beauty in the mundane and the oddities of normal life from a grandmother obsessed with watching wrestling on the TV to the kind hearted but slightly nutty religious worker the family employs. 

 

But scratch just below the surface and Minari manages to be an ode to the American dream in one breath and a sharp rebuke of it and capitalism in the other. This is a difficult balancing act to pull off but Chung does it with such ease that one can only applaud and wait in anticipation for his next feature to grace our screens. 

 

The small ensemble cast is utterly superb with child actor Alan S. Kim, who plays David, being the standout and whose career is one to watch with great interest. Will Patton, who plays the kind hearted yet religious nutter farm worker, manages to capture the warmth and madness of Paul without stooping to overplaying his hand. 

 

Minari is an ode to the American dream, a tribute to the indomitable human spirit and a timely reminder of the importance of family. Minari is a cinematic triumph.

★★★★★