Minari (2020) - 9/10
Well you can tell from the opening shots that this is going to be a joy. Beautifully shot, calming score, a nice young Korean family starting a new adventure in 1980s Arkansas. Jacob (Steven Yeun) has a dream to build a farm on the land they’ve bought, a ‘Garden of Eden’. His wife Monica (Yeri Han) is less impressed with the trailer they’ll live in and it worried how far from the city they are… and the hospitals, their young son David (Alan S. Kim) has a heart condition. Nevertheless, they’ve hope and seem sensible, resourceful. God I hope they’re okay. It’s not fancy, but uses the landscape to paint a picture of idyllic potential. Beautiful sunshine, lush earth, a family learning to enjoy it’s freedom. There’s tension though, both with David’s health and the marriage of his parents. You’d think that maybe the arrival of Monica’s mother would add to the simmering unease, but Grandma (Yuh-Jung Youn) is an absolute treasure. David, born in America is reluctant, but Grandma and her Korean traditions wins him over. In many ways it’s David and his Grandma that’s the central story, but it’s a broad tapestry of family dynamics and social interactions. Even with Paul (Will Patton) a crazy Bible enthusiast that helps Jacob on his farm. It’s sweet, charming and funny. From Paul carrying his cross on Sundays to David’s instance that Soonja isn’t a real Grandma because she doesn’t bake cookies (but does lift money from the church collection plate). She’s the spirit of adventure, a reckless abandon in her very nature. It’s exactly what David needs in his life. What they all need. Family is all you need. It’s not action packed, but there’s real heart and drive to this. That’s not easy to capture, but director Lee Issac Chung does superbly. It looks gorgeous too and the acting is fantastic right across the cast. It’s not all joyful, but there’s a subtlety to even the darker moments and even when things get really bad. It will make you smile, it’ll make you cry. Come the end I’m beaming through the tears. It’s wonderful. Truly wonderful.