- Golden Globe Awards
Minari is an American production acted in Korean and as such qualifies for the Golden Globes’ Foreign Language category. It is a semi-autobiographical story written by director Lee Isaac Chung, who grew up in a small farm in Arkansas and it follows very closely the experiences of a small Korean family in that state in the 1980s.
We follow Jacob (Steven Yeun) who uproots his family – a pre-teenage girl (Noel Cho) and an adorable little boy named David (Alan Kim) who suffers from a heart murmur- and moves them to a ramshackle trailer on a five-acre farm in Arkanas.
“A house on wheels” comments his wife Monica (Yeri Han) looking very worried and disappointed. Jacob invests all the money saved after working hard in California hatcheries for ten years. He is sure that in America he will fulfill his dream of establishing a farm that will produce vegetables prized by Korean immigrants. In the meantime they find a job in the local hatchery, dividing baby chicks by sex. Male in the white box, female in the blue box.
But Jacob’s focus remainson his land. Crushing the earth through his fingers and plowing the fields with the help of a tractor and the man who sold it to him, Paul (Will Patton), a hard worker and born-again Christian who every Sunday curries a heavy wooden cross along the road to town.
The tiny homestead is in the middle of nowhere and Monica’s mother Soonja (Yuh-jung-Youn) comes to the rescue, helping with needed babysitting. A free spirit with a wicked sense of humor who swears, doesn’t cook, loves watching TV and playing cards, she arrives from Korea with bags of chili powder and anchovies. David isn’t thrilled to be sharing a room with his grandmother because “she smells Korean”, he complains . Their cohabitation soon blossoms into a sweet relationship.
Problems with lack of water for the crops and money loaned by the local bank create more tension and cause fights between Jacob and Monica – this is not what Jacob promised when they got married. The kids fly paper planes into their parents room with “don’t fight” written all over them as they argue. Grandma ends up in the hospital with a bad stroke. Everything seems doomed, but perseverance and hard work pay off for when Jacob gets a deal with a Korean supermarket – until a fire destroys the crops ready for sale.
The film’s ttle, Minari, is taken from a plant , Chinese celery, that grandma Soonja has planted along a nearby creek. When everything seems lost a large green crop of minari colors the banks of the creek. Something is saved, but is it too late for Monica?
Minari is Chung’s fifth film – it won the jury and audience awards at Sundance 2020 last January and in the past three months it has collected a dozen awards around the world. The movie is produced by Brad Pitt’s Plan B.