Welcome to RELEVANT Recommends, our weekly look at the books, movies, albums, shows and even video games worth your time. I’m Tyler Huckabee, senior editor of RELEVANT, and this week we’re looking at A24’s new drama Minari.
Immigrant stories have grown in popularity over the last few years with the social attention paid to the issue in the press. So you’ve probably seen other stories about the immigrant experience in America. But Minari still stands out by virtue of shifting the focus from the broad drama of coming to America to the minute, mundane details of an American family of South Koreans living in the rural South.
Minari’s focus is intimate, putting the Yi family under the microscope to chronicle the everyday lives of Jacob and Monica, played by Steven Yeun and Han Ye-ri, and their son David, played Alan S. Kim and daughter Anne, played by Noel Cho.
Rural Arkansas is portrayed lovingly but unsparingly, just the lives of the Chi family themselves. The movie feels so close and personal that at times you’re almost embarrassed to be watching, like you’re peeking through the windows of a real family which, in a way, you are. The movie is loosely based on the real life of writer/director Lee Isaac Chung, and he brings a tender eye to the proceedings that infuses even normal events with rapturous beauty, and difficult times with enormous sorrow. The stakes of the movie are low and the pace is gentle, but it’s never dull as we become deeply immersed and invested in the Chi family’s success, survival and love.
None of this would work without terrific performances and Yeun particularly shines as a young father, struggling to maintain his own sense of identity while holding his family together and ensuring their survival — none of which feels like a given. Most people probably still know Yeun from his time on The Walking Dead but he’s since developed a reputation as a gifted actor in lowflying indie fare like Okja, Sorry to Bother You and the excellent Burning — all of which showcase an enormous talent. But he’s never been better than he is in Minari.
The movie is out today, Friday, in virtual theaters and the A24 screening room and will be available on demand on February 26. We recommend it.
Tyler Huckabee is RELEVANT's senior editor. He lives in Nashville with his wife, dog and Twitter account.