Combustible Celluloid
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With: Steven Yeun, Han Ye-ri, Alan Kim, Noel Kate Cho, Youn Yuh-jung, Will Patton, Scott Haze, Darryl Cox, Esther Moon
Written by: Lee Isaac Chung
Directed by: Lee Isaac Chung
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some thematic elements and a rude gesture
Language: English, Korean, with English subtitles
Running Time: 115
Date: 12/11/2020

Minari (2020)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Farm Wrestling

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Lee Isaac Chung's Minari is a sweet, comfy arthouse movie, the kind that — during the pre-COVID days — did well with moviegoers of a certain age in matinee shows. Its star is a foul-mouthed little old lady who will surely have plenty of viewers clapping and tittering along to her antics.

The excellent Steven Yeun (Burning, Sorry to Bother You) holds things together as the family patriarch, Jacob Yi, a Korean-American farmer who moves his family to a makeshift home on an Arkansas farm. He hopes to get away from the monotonous job of sitting at a table and separating baby chicks by gender. He intends to grow Korean vegetables, to sell to the growing Korean community there. His wife Monica (Han Ye-ri) is not pleased, doesn't seem to fit into this world as well as Jacob does. Their young son David (Alan Kim) has some kind of heart condition, and they coddle and protect him. ("Don't run!" the continuously warn him, while he's faced with acres of open farm land, just calling his name.) Their smart older daughter Anne (Noel Kate Cho) just seems along for the ride.

Then, Monica's mother Soon-ja (Youn Yuh-jung) turns up, and she's a pistol. Meanwhile, a kindly local religious zealot, Paul (a terrific Will Patton), volunteers to help work the land. He occasionally stops to shout his thanks and praises to the heavens. Drama stems from the farm itself, such as the effort to find water, etc., but much of the tension is set around these immigrants trying to figure out how to fit in, and how to remain true to themselves. It's evenly, softly paced and the drama is never ramped up to soap opera levels. It's a gorgeous, pleasant film that will make plenty of people happy.

Released by Lionsgate, the 2021 Blu-ray is a lovely thing that would be welcome in any library. Audio and video transfers are tops, and bonuses include a must-listen commentary track between director Lee Isaac Chung and actor Youn Yuh-jung, who won an Oscar for her delightful performance; a behind-the-scenes featurette (13 minutes), and 3 minutes of deleted scenes, in addition to a digital copy.

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