Available on demand on Amazon Prime video, Apple TV, et al
Lee Isaac Chung's richly textured and powerful new film Minari is an American Dream story, but maybe not the one you're thinking of. Jacob and Monica Yi have lived in California for ten years, making good money (for immigrants) sexing chickens. They've made friends, joined a church, had two children whose English is as American as Johnnie's from the farm. Their earnings have lifted their family in Korea from poverty (even if--as Monica tearfully points out--their money followed the channels of patriarchy and only benefited his family, not hers). By all accounts, this is a successful immigration. Shouldn't they be grateful? Jacob, played by Steven Yeun, is not grateful. He does not plan to spend his one wild, precious life peering at chicken genitalia. Why should he settle for the soulless grind of the American Dream when he could have fifty acres of the "best dirt in America", and a success he can finally be proud of? He moves his family to Arkansas where he plans to grow Korean vegetables. This is the 1980s and the immigrants are coming--30,000 a year from his homeland--and they will need familiar produce.
And so the family pulls up to a single-wide trailer with no stairs and no anchor in the middle of tornado country. "This isn't what you promised", says Monica, played with luminous defiance by Yeri Han. Jacob hasn't told her about the trailer or the farm. "A farm? I thought you wanted a garden, now it's a farm?" The incredulity, the exhaustion, tells you everything you need to know about the state of their marriage. The scene closes with a cosy shot of the family sleeping together on the floor--Jacob has suggested a sleepover to endear the kids, Anne (Noel Kate Cho) and medically fragile David (the breakout newcomer, Alan S. Kim), to their new adventure and make them his allies. Monica tells the children not to get too comfortable, they're not staying. One person's dream is another's nightmare. The children might be appeased with a slumber party, but Monica will be a harder sell. Jacob arranges for her mother to come and live with...