Minari (2020)

It’s been several months since I watched the movie. It was very difficult to write about Minari soon after I first watched it. As a first generation Korean immigrant living in the US, there were numerous scenes in the movie, which conjured up my memories and emotions. Because everything felt so personal, it was difficult to even write about it.

Minari felt like a poem. The narrative was simple and the movie was not packed with dense dialogues. Instead, it was filled with beautiful green scenery of the farmland and deep, authentic, and complex emotion of the characters. This dance of sparse conversation and dense emotional intensity is partially rooted in Korean culture. When Monica met Soonja first time in the trailer house, in the beginning she looks a bit awkward and doesn’t know what to say because she is completely filled with emotion and she has hard time expressing the feeling in words. This is one of the many cinematic moments in the movie because it’s where literal description of characters’ emotion fails.

And perhaps this is why the parking lot scene where Monica and Jacob have a fight felt explosive and even more emotional. On top of the fact that the Korean dialogue felt so visceral to me as a native speaker, it was tragic that they were arguing after finally hearing a good news about Jacob’s farm. Their dialogue was also constructed in a way that we could see their emotions were heightened but also not the hatred towards each other but the difficulties and challenges they have been going through.

About the actors, obviously, Youn Yuh-jung, the veteran Korean actress, whom I’ve been following several decades by now, played Soonja effortlessly. She’s now won many awards, including the Academy, and it’s well deserved. But for me, Ye-ri Han’s performance felt more moving because I was able to empathize most with her character and she delivered a lot of her performance in a non-verbal way. All in all, the narrative was set up in a way that I was able to relate myself to every character in the movie, even the kids, and all the actors played their roles superbly.

I am still often surprised that this movie is being loved by so many people all over the world not because I doubt its quality but as a Korean, my background makes me digest this movie in a very specific way compared to others who don’t have much knowledge on Korean cultural reference. This alone means that this movie is so well-written and well-made that it can appeal to many people from different cultural background. I am really looking forward to Lee Isaac Chung’s future films.

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