“What is this place? Our new home.”
Set in rural America in the 1980’s, Minari tells the story of a young Korean couple forging a new life in a new place. A new home. Produced by American companies A24 and Plan B Entertainment, the film reflects award winning director and writer Isaac Chung’s childhood on a small farm in Arkansas. Minari invites us to accompany the film’s protagonists and their children as they move from urban California to a totally new landscape. The new life they encounter is sometimes unsettling, sometimes hilarious, and always bone-tiring. It paints a picture of the life of so many of our fellow travellers as they leave less than perfect situations for what they hope will be life changing situations.
The journey from urban to rural is often a difficult transition. “What is this place” is a real question and provides the movie with a potent motif. Will this be a place to provide a living and happiness? Will it be a place of beauty and grace, or only a temporary stop to an even better living? Will our children be at home and accepted here? How will Grandma survive, newly arrived from Korea? Will the farm be close enough to the hospital if young David need surgery? Jacob and Monica come to different conclusions on many of these questions and their divergent views put a strain on their tiny family.
The divide is not simply between rural and urban, however. The jobs that were so taxing in the city (chicken sexing) follow them to the country. The divide between traditional and new also colours their decisions and discussions. Jacob and Monica had vowed in Korea that they would come to America “and save each other”. But has this happened? The gap between aspiration and reality seems only to widen as the movie progresses.
There is usually a crisis point in most lives, and in most movies too. When this happens in Minari, loyalties must be selected and decisions made. The choice of family or farm – running or walking – grandma staying or going -must finally be made from the heart.
This film would be simply a sweet and time honoured immigrant story if it were not for the bright humour as well as the genuineness of the script. In the hands of such skilled actors the words come alive and stay with us. Kudos too to the exquisite musical score. At times haunting, at times disjionted, at times lilting; it too reflects the immigrants’ experience. Minari is visually appealing as well. The countryside is filled with lush beauty. It acts as a compelling character in the story. And in the final analysis it provides the ground in which the non-native plant – the Minari – can thrive and grow and bring sustenance to all.
Minari is now available on VOD.