Lee Isaac Chung’s semi-autobiographical film Minari, is among the top contenders of this awards season. The film offers an extremely intimate look into the lives of a Korean immigrant family in the U.S. While the film does not feature any huge, exciting plot elements, the characters make for a heartfelt story. Chung explores the Yi family through the eyes of children and their parents. We get a complete picture of their hopes, fears, and desires, allowing the audience to connect on a basic human level.
Through Children’s Eyes
Some of the most heartfelt moments in Minari come from the perspective of the Yi children. Anne Yi (Noel Cho), older sister to David Yi (Alan S. Kim), is a watchful guardian to her brother. She is concerned with the well-being of those around her, including her parents. David, on the other hand, is free and playful. He is not without his fears and concerns either. David wants friends and acceptance like most kids. His relationship with his grandmother (Yuh-Jung Youn) fleshes out who he is. One of the things he wants is a grandmother that matches his notion of a grandparent, like someone who bakes cookies. At the same time, he clings to her in times of need as she provides comfort. Their relationship is extremely relatable in that sense.
Through the Eyes of Parents
Monica (Yeri Han) and Jacob (Steven Yeun) are the most intimately explored characters in Minari. We get a complete picture of who they are as individuals and parents. For Monica, she is wary of her family’s situation in Arkansas. She is also concerned with the lack of stability and fears that it will tear them down. Overall, Monica is the level-headed one who struggles with the practical concerns of her family.
Jacob is engrossed in the American dream. He works desperately to create and build a living for his family. Jacob is obsessed with finishing what he starts, and the farm becomes a life’s goal that he must achieve. There is also the sense that the farm symbolizes a badge of American pride for him. At the end of the film, we see his determination continue even after it nearly separates the Yi family, but their perseverance ultimately endures.
At its core, Minari is a wholly human film. It deals with problems and questions that many of us deal with daily. For that reason, many people will connect with and appreciate the story Lee Isaac Chung has crafted.