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Criticism | ‘Minari’ touchingly explores the takeover of a South Korean family in the United States

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It’s true to say that the current Oscar season was somewhat bittersweet, not only because of the frightening worsening of the pandemic, but also because of the rush of several distributors to bring their films to streaming services. and compromise the cinematic experience. Anyway, it is possible to take full advantage of the titles chosen to compete for the golden statuette, as is the case of the poetic ‘Nomadland‘, the exciting ‘My Father’ and the spectacular ‘The Supreme Voice. of the Blues’, for Example. Now is the time for the Korean-American production ‘Minari: In Search of Happiness’ to shine not with an entirely original narrative, but with the presentation of a powerful perspective from South Korean immigrants who have traveled the world. looking for better life opportunities. .

Commissioned by Lee Isaac Chung, who had already given us a ruthless portrait of the Rwandan genocide with “Munyurangabo”, he returns to invest his efforts in a very autobiographical and intimate case study. The main scope centers on the Yi, who move from California to Arkansas to start over. Set in the mid-1980s, the feature once again shines a light on the controversial explorations of the predator ‘American Dream’, as well as the aforementioned obliterating construction of Chloe Zhao, in which, theoretically, it would present itself in the same way it doesn’t. no matter who, to embrace American ideology. However, things are not black and white, but are designed in a way that demands a lot from the community that does not belong to the country’s economic elite in return for cruel survival.

Stepping out of the role of his career, Steven Yeun plays Patriarch Jacob Yi, who holds firmly to his homeland roots alongside Monica (played by the fantastic Han Ye-ri) while trying to show what the new reality can do. bring to the family. . At first, the outlook is not favorable, as Monica is shocked that the new address is, literally, a house on wheels in the middle of a vast lot and far from civilization – something complicated, considering basic needs they may have along the way. However, in a considerably selfish statement, Jacob announces that he will take care of all his loved ones and that the future will be very different from the past: he plans to cultivate the most diverse agricultural products, to sign agreements with supermarkets and local distributors. and go up to whatever you want.

Of course, things don’t go as planned – after all, reality is not a fairy tale, as Chung makes clear. Also in charge of a well-crafted script and strong enough to achieve what he intends to do, the director treats each of the sequences with the greatest possible caution, running up against a realistic literacy that questions a working class that believes in the lies of the capitalism. Jacob has been sold on the idea that meritocracy is palpable, when in fact it is not; rather, it is a bankrupt structure full of lies and coming back to the same point from which it came out.

Steven Yeun appears in Lee Isaac Chung’s Minari, an official selection from the American Drama Competition at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.
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Imbued with this panorama, we have the confrontation of generations who, in the end, transform into a character with his own thought and protagonist of his own subplot. On the one hand, Jacob and Monica deal with marital issues and highly conflicting worldviews; on the other, David (Alan Kim) and Anne (Noel Kate Cho) are dealing with divided personalities who must find a balance between Asian descent and the Western society in which they are inserted; and, finally, we have Youn Yuh-jung’s superb presence as Soon-ja, whose performance proves he rightly deserves all the accolades he has received so far. Soon-ja leaves her home to live with the Yi and at first struggles to connect with her grandchildren (who haven’t seen her for several years due to obvious logistical issues) while struggling to maintain some living traditions.

It is this cyclical movement which gives all the bases of the main story. Different from what one might imagine, the plot escapes romantic dramatizations and lets the measured expressions of the actors and actresses control each of the twists and turns, from the socio-economic stagnation of the family, through the internal crises of each character. and resulting in spiritual cleansing. which transcends the worldly concepts of what we mean by “faith”. Guided by the candid soundtrack of Emile Mosseri, who has crafted the most honest pieces of recent years, and accompanied by almost documentary photography by Lachlan Milne, the film carries a far greater allegorical depth than is known to exist. ‘imagined.

Enjoy watching:

‘Minari’, as well as recent productions of the genre which have dominated the awards scene, is a very welcome title in the catalog of those who wish to study the art of making cinema and, like the compatriot ‘Parasita‘ ‘, it deserves to be verified in a totality which escapes common sense and which invites us on an emotional journey on the value of happiness.

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