Minari: Unbounded ‘American dream’

Afeef Abdulla
3 min readMay 15, 2021

Movie critic

American Drama| 2020

Director: Lee Isaac Chung

Minari portraits the American dream of the Korean immigrant Yi family who moves from California to their new plot of land in rural Arkansas to start farming as to build their new beginning in the early 1980s. Jacob’s (father of the family) wife Monica was unaware of his entire plan on starting cultivation yet moved on for a good cause. Absence of Korean/ Non Korean neighbours, house on wheels, remote area, worries about their son David’s heart condition who is often told no to run turns her to dislike the shift to Arkansas. Jacob and Monica work sexing chickens at the nearby poultry hatchery and Jacob’s plan seems to quit the job once his farm helps him earning well by selling Korean vegetables to Dallas as the Korean immigrants were incrementing in America at a good rate.

The picture takes us to another framesets when Monica’s mother Soon-Ja travels from South Korea to look after David and his elder sister Anne during the day. Little old cute David was reluctant to share his room with grandmother as she didn’t look like ‘real’ grandmother for him who wears boys’ trousers and doesn’t bake cookies and more over she smells like ‘korean’ David says.

Eventually the bond and affection between these two characters grow and that could be few of the astounding takeaways from Minari. She takes David to nearby river-bank where they plant ‘minari’ (a Korean vegetable with little fuss) and advice David and Anne at an instance not to scare away snakes at the river-bank as they are more dangerous when they are hidden; infact this is the theme Lee Chung is trying to speak out through ‘Minari’ with Jacob and Monica hiding their fears from one another.

A feeble dramatic approach could be seen when the family goes through tough times like Joseph’s well getting dried up, Soon-Ja dealing with a stroke, vegetable order getting cancelled at last minutes and so on.

Story takes us to the conclusion when the family witnesses a fire break out nearby the house on their way back from Oklahama visiting David’s doctor and receiving an order for Joseph from a Korean- owned supermarket; the very own fire broke out from his Korean vegetable stored barn which was accidentally set up by Soon-Ja while burning the trashes in the garbage can.

Lee Chung’s brilliance has to be personified from his screenplay where he tries to deconstruct the overrated ‘American dream’ of the immigrants and settlers through this semi-autobiographical picture.

‘Minari’ is a must watch for those who dwell in sensitive storyboard. Earning six nominations in the 93rd Academy Award (Oscar), Youn (Soon-Ji) won the best Supporting Actress making her the first Korean to win in this category.

You can rent and watch ‘Minari’ now on Amazon Prime.

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