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‘Minari’ Depicts Asian Culture and the American Dream

In a time of anger and ignorance, “Minari” is a film that tells a story everyone should watch. It shows viewers not only an accurate representation of Asian immigrants adjusting to life in a new country, but also a reminder of the American dream that everyone strives for in being successful and providing for their family.

“Minari” gives viewers insight on how immigrant parents live in a foreign country and raise their children on Asian family culture of hard work and respect. Released in 2020, “Minari” is written and directed by Lee Issac Chung, who based the story on his own life growing up the son of immigrant parents from South Korea. The film stars Steven Yeun as the family’s father, Jacob Yi, and Han Ye-ri as the mother, Monica Yi.

Taking place in the 1980’s, the film opens with the Yi family, Jacob and Monica along with their two kids Anne and David, arriving at their new home in rural Arkansas. Now living in a trailer in the middle of a plot of land, Jacob has transplanted his family from the West Coast in order to chase his dream of starting a farm.

Jacob explains to Monica, who herself seems weary of the idea, the amount of Koreans that move to the United States every year and his hope to grow Korean vegetables to sell to markets and provide a sense of back home. The family also grows by one when Monica’s mother, Youn, comes to live with them as well.

The family is a strict, but loving bunch that teaches the importance of hard work and respect that reflects in their children. Their oldest daughter, Anne, is very mature and respectful. There are many scenes in which it shows her cooking, helping her brother or helping her family without even being asked.

Their younger child, David, is full of curiosity and energy. However, he is limited to expend that energy due to a heart condition that causes the family to worry about him over-exerting himself and something happening to him. In what seems to be a somewhat selfish dream of Jacob’s to achieve success starting his farm, he stresses to Monica that he wants the kids to see that hard work can lead to success.

The excellent cinematography, combined with the acting, help provide the feeling that the viewer is a fly on the wall watching a family just be a family. We see ups and downs, happiness and sadness and everything in between all five members of the family as well as some of the locals they interact with.

The dialog spoken in the film is about 75 percent Korean with English subtitles for the viewers. This helps depict true Asian households with their native language being spoken almost all the time and their kids knowing both Korean and English.

There are films that follow immigrant families, usually depicting them speaking English with a sort of accent of where they are originally from. Chung’s decision to have the family speaking mostly Korean is a refreshing change because the representation feels more accurate.

“Minari” gets its title from a Korean vegetable of the same name, that also parallels the family the film is based on. A vegetable that grows well in damp and watery areas, “Minari” is shown being planted by Grandma Youn and it thrives in its new environment.

The same can be said about the Yi family and them planting in a new area and learning to root and grow. Sometimes people need to see an accurate depiction of what life is like for others in the country. Sometimes people need a reminder of the value of life, family and success. “Minari” provides both of that and is a wonderful movie that everyone should take the time to see.

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