“Minari” is a happy smile from a movie about a Korean-American family (mom, dad, boy, and girl) who moved to Arkansas in the 1980s to try farming. There is potential for many great dramas – the boy has a heart murmur; Grandma comes to live with them; How do Arcansans feel about foreigners? – but instead, writer and director Lee Isaac Chung delivers relatable, everyday dramas: Mama (Yeri Han) is skeptical that Papa (Steven Yeun) can pull off the agricultural cause that weighs on their marriage; The children (Alan S. Kim, Noel Cho) let grandma (Youn Yuh-jung) hang on the mountain dew (“water from the mountains”, as they call it). The family is looking for a church. The locals are nice to them. I’ve always waited for racism and it never happened. Way to get hooked on racism buddy!
Chung’s approach is so warm and human. He has affection for the characters who have affection for one another. I suspect if I had just read the script I would have thought it would be a slow, boring movie. But while it certainly isn’t full of action, it doesn’t lag behind. It moves at the steady pace of life. It was my favorite film of the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.