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The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
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The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

‘Minari’ shares the intimacy and hardships of a first generation family

The latest A24 release is a heartfelt drama on growing up in rural America.
A Korean-American family toughs out rural Arkansas in the latest A24 film. (A24/Josh Ethan Johnson)

You’re eight. You’re spending the summer at your Grandma’s. After roughhousing a little too much with the neighborhood kids, you get a bad scrape on your knee. You haven’t lost that much blood before. Granted, it’s barely anything, but in your tiny kid mind it’s the end of the world. You cry to Grandma. She gives you a big hug. Tells you you’ll be fine, you’re a big kid now, and cleans and dresses your wound. You feel stronger with the bandage wrapped around your leg. Later, she makes you a hot fudge sundae: your favorite homemade brownies with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce on top. That feeling you get on your first bite of dessert, sitting warm and safe in Grandma’s house, that’s exactly how you feel watching “Minari.” 

“Minari” is the latest feature from writer/director Lee Isaac Chung. The film follows a Korean immigrant family moving on a farm plot in Arkansas. A semi-autobiographical drama, “Minari” is a warm, intimate look at a first generation family trying to adapt to life in rural America. Jacob Yi (Yeun) moves his family out to a mobile home sitting in a vast plot of land with the dream of running a successful farm. The film follows as the Yi’s face the tribulations of the societal and climate pressures of life in the United States.

The film stars Steven Yeun of “The Walking Dead” and “Okja” fame, Yeri Han, Yuh-Jung Youn, Will Patton, Alan Kim and Noel Kate Cho. The reason I list nearly every member of the cast is that this is the best ensemble performance since “Parasite.” Sure, the Best Picture-winner came out only a year ago, but god, is everyone in this film fantastic.

Steven Yeun, who plays Jacob Yi, the father of the family, proves yet again to be an actor transcending the zombie show that put him in the limelight. Yeri Han brings an empathetic sadness and struggle as Monica, Jacob’s wife, and Will Patton fills the underlying tension of the film with much-needed faith and joy.

The real show-stoppers, however, are Yuh-Jung Youn and Alan Kim as Soonja and David, respectively. Their grandmother-grandson dynamic is one of the most honest, hilarious, humble and heartbreaking relationships I’ve seen on film. David and Soonja are such convincing pair of child and elder, each with their own flaws, strengths, senses of humor, confusion and all the other nonsense that goes along with being a human being. They’re a delight every second they’re on screen. If you watch this film for anything, it’s them.

That’s not to say every other quality of the film is great. The score cradles you in its soft strings and sparse synths. The melodies played on piano along with the eerie “oooo-s” of a chorus will ring in your head for days after your first viewing. I highly recommend the soundtrack for any study session or late-night existential crisis. You will cry.

The cinematography is soaked in sunlight and full of grass and trees blowing through the wind. The film makes use of its vast setting by providing countless wide shots of the Yi farm’s cultivation. These visuals juxtapose perfectly with the claustrophobic conditions of the mobile home and marital tensions of Jacob and Monica.

All in all, this is a wonderful, carefully crafted film. The latest A24 pick up is sure to warm the hearts of many-a American household. Watch this film as soon as possible, it may be the best that 2021 has to offer. 

“Minari” was released digitally Feb. 26. 

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About the Contributor
Brendan Sawyer
Brendan Sawyer, Former Deputy Life Editor
Brendan Sawyer ('21) was a student in the College of Arts and Science majoring in economics and cinema media arts. He previously served as Deputy Life Editor and continues to write for the Life section. He can be reached at [email protected]
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