M.I.O. Movie Review: Minari
9:55 AM EST on January 27, 2023
Every couple of weeks, I'll be reviewing a Made In Oklahoma movie that deserves your viewing enjoyment. Today I take a look at the acclaimed 2020 film...
A peppery plant that is a vegetable cornerstone in Korean cuisine is the minari; while its overlooked in this country, it is a true piece of the cooking culture. Minari, the 2020 film, takes that transported plant and puts it in the fertile ground of a rural community, growing and maturing into a rare thing of imported beauty.
On a dirt road in the middle of nowhere, a family during Reagan’s America moves from the west coast to a small town in Arkansas (really Oklahoma). Moving into a mobile home with the dream of starting a working farm, Jacob (Steven Yeun) and Monica (Han Ye-ri) are fighting an uphill battle, but one they are seemingly prepared for
But for their kids, David (Alan Kim) and Anne (Noel Cho), the farm is a true wonderland with daydream visions, being immersed in the true innocence that this far-reaching community and their new interactions have in store for them.
With Monica’s job as a chicken-sorter working during the day, Jacob works to make this farm profitable with the native vegetables from Korea, believing that this will turn into a booming business. Along with invaluable help from his Bible-beating partner Paul (Will Patton), things are looking good.
Wanting a piece of family with her, they soon take in Monica’s mother Soon-ja (Acadamy Award winner Youn Yuh-jung) to help watch the kids. Though aggressive and stand-offish, they came to understand the unorthodox ways of Soon-ja, starting with her planting the minari on the soft grass in the stream by her house.
Through various misfortunes, water troubles mount, bills are overdue, and the farm begins to fail. Even worse, Soon-ja has a massive stroke—I know the feeling—as the marriage between David and Anne soon implodes.
In this new wave of American-based Korean filmmakers, it can’t be understated how life-affirming Minari is, as both a part of this crest of budding talent and as one of truest stories from Oklahoma life—not just people filmed around Tulsa subbing for the Ozarks, but how the locations feel real.
Much like the people in Minari, my own family went through trying times in the 1980s, with the hardships and upheavals for the barely-there farmer. It was being a part of a culture you never quite understood but were completely mired in, all through young eyes.
I wonder how they survived…
From the days of going to a small-town Vacation Bible School to the ominous tornado warnings on the television, every minute is both the worst thing and the best thing, something you will never experience again. So kudos to director Lee Isaac Chung for having the wherewithal to remember the story and just it put on the screen.
The cast is incredible, especially Will Patton and Youn Yuh-jung as the two sides of the coin – the elders with too much faith and the young couple having no-to-faith; as they reach for the inevitable conscious conclusions, sometimes, Minari reminds me that it’s okay to have faith nothing when there is nothing to believe in.