The 2021 Best Picture Nominees: Minari

| April 20, 2021

I have a general hatred for family dramas.  They almost always feel phony.  The characters always feel like disassociated actors pushed into the same scene, forced through drama that is hoisted up to the 10th level at every turn.  The worst example was Ron Howard’s adaptation of Hillbilly Elegy, which gets everything wrong.  The lovely counter to that is Lee Isaac Chung’s enchanting drama Minari which is enchanting, somber, boosted by incredible performances, beautiful visuals and a quietly effective musical score.  I love every frame of it.

Most family dramas are drawn from real experience and this is no exception, but what sets it apart are the details, the characters and their connection with one another.  The Yi family, headed by father Jacob (Steven Yeun) and mother Monica (Yeri Han) are immigrants from Korea who have settled in the United States, and specifically to a beautiful (looking) patch of Heaven in rural Arkansas.  The goal is to experience the American dream of running their own farm (his dream, not hers) while raising two children, one of whom has a heart condition.  The prospects don’t immediately look good, Monica is not exactly thrilled with their new lodgings, a leaky motor home in the middle of a field.  The film follows their heartbreak at the reality of working this American dream; heartbreak, tragedy, disappointment, disillusionment and the ever-changing whims of mother nature.

Minari is very specific about the way in which it observes this family.  It’s not a series of highs and lows and crisis and screaming matches.  There’s a lot of emotional weight that runs through this narrative that is never overstated.  We know the relationships and we see how they develop (and dissolve) as the tide of circumstance washes in and the family’s fortunes change.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2021) View IMDB Filed in: Uncategorized