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MINARI

What to know: Incredile cast, intricate storyline, beautiful score and exquisite cinematography.
KIDS FIRST ALL STAR
Recommended age 12-18
115 minutes
FeatureFilm
A24
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Minari, a semi-autobiographical and earnest portrayal of an immigrant family, written and directed by Isaac Lee Chung, tugs at viewers' heartstrings and is surely a 2021 must-watch. The incredible starring cast, intricate storyline, poignant background score and perfectly punctuated cinematography all combine to make this Korean and English feature a beautiful masterpiece.

The name of the film, Minari, is another name for Korean watercress, which is key to the plotline. When the story begins the Yi family had immigrated to the U.S. from Korea years ago; Jacob (Steven Yeun) and Monica (Ye-Ri Han), parents to David (Alan Kim) and Anne (Noel Cho), are chicken sexers by profession. The family moves from California to the Ozarks for new opportunities. Specifically, Arkansas, where they are greeted by their new yet run-down mobile home and by Paul, an eccentric evangelist. As they settle into their new home, problems in the family begin to set in. In the name of bringing back a bit of the family spirit, Monica invites her mother, Soonja (Yuh-Jung Youn), to come and stay with them. The foul-mouthed, cards-playing, yet adorable halmeoni (grandma in Korean) arrives and totally shakes things up, bonding with the grandkids over growing minari, playing cards, and watching wrestling. When tragedy strikes, though, the family is put through a resilience test like never before.

Lee Isaac Chung took inspiration from his own childhood growing up on his parents' plot of land to create this film; it's personal, and it shows. This film is a "the summer when everything changed" type of story . Steven Yeun is, as always, masterful in encapsulating the minimal emotions and laconic speech of his character. Veteran Korean actress Yuh-Jung Youn is my other favorite in this film; her character's feisty-yet-lovable grandma persona truly fits. She's an unwavering icon of the South Korean film industry and her experience shows. Also, the cinematography team for Minari, as well as the editing team, have worked meticulously to create a seamless viewing experience that accentuates emotions, waits for just long enough to switch scenes, and adds the perfect level of drama to every scene. Minari as a whole makes it feel like you're peeking into the Yi family's life--it's breathtaking.

The Sundance Award-winning film Minari is a priceless portrait of resilience within family, of sticking together even through the hardest times, and of enjoying the smallest things in life. Minari has some mild language and there are certain religious elements that parents should watch out for.

I give Minari 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 11 to 18, plus adults. Minari releases in theaters on February 12, 2021, and On-Demand February 26, 2021.

Reviewed by Eshaan M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14

Minari is a film that bears its soul, overflowing with heart and humanity, a snapshot of a family in metamorphosis, adjusting to their new surroundings, and all the challenges that come with that transition within their family unit.

Directed by Lee Issac Chung and partially inspired by his own upbringing, we see much of Minari through the eyes of David (Alan Kim), the youngest member of a Korean family that moves from California to Arkansas in hopes of starting a farm. As the movie starts, we're with David and his sister, Anne (Noel Cho) in the back of their family's car as they arrive at their new mobile home. David's parents, Jacob (Steven Yuen) and Monica (Ye-ri Han) are experienced chicken sexers, but it's his father's commitment to his vision of a new way of life for their family that pulls them halfway across the country, which sparks some disagreement between David's parents. Just as the relationship between David's parents reaches a boiling point, David's grandmother, Soonja (Yuh-jung Youn) comes to town, throwing a wrench in the family's already precarious situation.

Punctuated by mundane, yet memorable and ultimately powerful moments of warmth, Minari is kind of a knockout, and it achieves this through the power of its subtlety and simplicity. Minari functions as advertised: A family, a vision, a farm. The movie wears its heart on its sleeve without compromising the story it tells. There's a scene involving the swapping of Mountain Dew for bodily fluids, and also one in which a family member is struck by a sudden medical conflict and both are just as effective. It's very moving in the end, but tonally, it goes in multiple fairly disparate directions and arrives at a powerful coda, ending in neither triumph or defeat, but with a family having a newfound level of appreciation for what they bring to each other's lives.

In a time where seeing family, for many people, has been on pause--rendered unsafe by the current global circumstances--a movie about a family drawing together and marked by a fondness for those moments shared with loved ones feels meaningful beyond its intention to document Chung's childhood. It's an authentically American story that's told from the perspectives of those whose stories don't always get told. Ultimately, Minari derives its scope not from scale, but from emotion.

Audiences have been talking about Minari for over a year; it really is a gem, and I hope you'll seek it out. I give Minari 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages X to Y. Minari is currently playing in select theaters, as well as virtual cinemas, and it will be released in select theaters Feb 12 and on video on demand February 26, 2021.

By Benjamin P., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15

see youth comments
A Korean American family moves to an Arkansas farm in search of its own American dream. Amidst the challenges of this new life in the strange and rugged Ozarks, they discover the undeniable resilience of family and what really makes a home.
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