Steven Yeun stars as the patriarch of the Yi family. A South Korean immigrant family who have moved from the West Coast of the United States over to Arkansas in the 1980s. To Yeun’s wife Monica’s (Han Ye-ri) dismay they have been placed in a cheap mobile home. This is all so Yeun can live his dream of starting a farm and showing his two children (Alan Kim and Noel Kate Cho) that he can succeed at something. Minari follows the couple’s struggles to run a family and farm whilst also looking after their lively ageing mother, Soonja (Youn Yuh-jung).
Steven Yeun is a phenomenally underappreciated actor. He was a staple member of the cast of The Walking Dead for several seasons until he was violently killed off. As Glenn, he was one of the fan favourites of that show and he has been sorely missed ever since. Sadly, because The Walking Dead is a science fiction horror show about zombies, it doesn’t quite get the recognition it deserves from the various awarding bodies. Steven Yeun is among many actors in that show that provided powerhouse performances. This love has therefore been finally vindicated because Yeun has been nominated for a Best Lead Actor Oscar for his work on Minari.
Yeun’s nomination is clearly deserved (and really he should win, but he sadly probably won’t) as his portrayal of Jacob Yi is brilliant. He brings a level of fatherly warmth to the character, but he’s also incredibly harsh and strict when he needs to be. Minari , though, is most certainly more of an ensemble piece as everyone in the Yi family is fantastic and so easy to watch. If it wasn’t for all of these incredible actors, Minari wouldn’t be anywhere near as good as it is because really there isn’t that much of a plot. It’s very much a slice of life film. And what a beautiful life it is.
Though Minari‘s lack of much of a plot is actually one of the best things about it. It’s so easy these days for films that centre around characters of non-white ethnicity to be about racism. Especially when they’re set in America. But Minari forgoes that and simply tells us all about the Yi family as characters not as victims. Once you’ve finished Minari, you’ll wish that you had the Yi family in your lives.
The film is also just an assault on your senses. It’s shot beautifully, you’ve never seen sunny days so bright and wonderful. The soundtrack is majestic and perfectly captures the wonder of the film. There’s also quite a lot of scenes showing off Korean cuisine and you’ll probably be quite hungry after those. The food in Korean and Japanese homes in films always looks delicious.
Minari quite frankly deserves all of the Oscars it has been nominated for this year. Out of all of the Best Picture nominations, it stands as the most heartfelt, hopeful and humble and that’s exactly what we need right now.
Minari will be released on April 2