Minari review – an enchanting drama of faith and farming

Minari review – an enchanting drama of faith and farming

The Guardian

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Lee Isaac Chung’s Oscar-nominated tale of a Korean family putting down roots in 1980s Arkansas beautifully balances the feelgood and the gritty

The title of writer-director Lee Isaac Chung’s enchanting film about a Korean family making a new start in rural 80s Arkansas refers to the tenacious edible plant that we see taking root and flourishing by a shady creek. “It’s a poetic plant,” Chung has said, not least because it “will grow very strongly in its second season, after it’s died and come back”. That theme of death and rebirth runs throughout Chung’s drama, inspired by his own family history (the minari used onscreen actually came from his father’s crop in Kansas City) and boosted by terrific performances, glowing visuals and a wonderful musical score.

Steven Yeun and Yeri Han are Jacob and Monica Yi, an immigrant Korean couple who relocate from California to a large plot in the Ozarks with “the best dirt in America”. For Jacob, it’s his dream – the chance to escape the monotony of sexing chickens for a living and to make something of himself. Monica is more sceptical, appalled by the leaky mobile home into which this reckless venture has placed them. A farming novice, her husband must learn the ropes from scratch, aided only by their eccentric neighbour Paul (Will Patton), a Korean-war veteran and religious fanatic who speaks in tongues, performs makeshift exorcisms and spends his Sundays dragging a cross up the local highway.

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