When a darling Alan S. Kim, 8 years old, wearing a jacket and tie, introduces Minari, I was ready for something special. Winning some charmed reviews from Sundance Film Festive where it premiered last January, the film screened at the Denver Film Festival (and the Aspen Film Festival) this week. Steven Yeun was awarded the 2020 Excellence in Acting at DFF43 for his starring role; he’s also one of the Executive Producers.
How charmed you’ll feel about the film will rely on your patience with scenes of strife, the idea of hubris and a quirky performance by Will Patton as the local religious fanatic in small town Arkansas. While it’s great to have a story of a Korean-American family trying to make a better life for themselves, Minari is a sentimental tale with predictable predicaments. Admirable as it may be in giving us a story from a new perspective, it’s a familiar immigrant tale. Elevated by the nuanced performance of the wife played by Yeri Han and the interplay between young son (Alan Kim) and his foul-mouthed Grandmother (Yuh-Jung Youn) — the film telegraphs the fate of the farm from the moment the family drives up to the trailer home. There’s no staircase to get in. They’re in for an uphill battle and it may be insurmountable.
The joy in this particular screening lay after…with the moving conversation between Denver writer Lisa Kennedy and Steven Yeun. It made me wish I’d also been privy to the interview with writer-director Lee Isaac Chung on the Aspen Film virtual screening. A great interview that felt quite intimate, Yeun revealed how he felt “the battle of wanting to be SEEN but in the service of the collective”. In a conversation with astute questions from Kennedy, Yeun spoke of his role in The Walking Dead and it’s resulting fame and how he had to shed the character Ben he portrayed in the indie film Burning. The entire cast of Minari felt that the film was an amazing project. Here was a film that portrayed what their parents may have gone through and it was cathartic to work through the dynamics of family and the concept of faith. The interview ends with Yeun revealing that “I only know who I am in relation to others”.
Drinks With Films rating: 🥤🥤🥤glasses of Mountain Dew (out of 5), where the interview made me appreciate the film with a new perspective
In a funny aside, I was waiting for the film to feature the scene where Jacob taught his son baseball…because that’s what that photo evoked for me. Turns out, he’s teaching him about Korean ingenuity in finding a new site for a well for the farm.