Given that Minari has a fish-out-of-water scenario about Korean settlers in what Monica calls “hillbilly country”, you might fear the worst, but none of the crises are caused by racism. The film’s take on the immigrant experience is more complex than a them-vs-us conflict. In some ways, the baseball cap-wearing, tractor-driving David is an archetypal American, and the locals tend to be friendlier than the Yis: true, a boy at church asks David why his face is “so flat”, but he invites him for a sleepover a minute later. One of the most refreshing aspects of Minari is that it respects all of its characters too much to turn them into caricatures. Jacob’s hired hand (Will Patton) conducts impromptu exorcisms, and spends his Sundays dragging a six-ft wooden cross along the road, but he is presented as a decent individual rather than a cartoon weirdo.
Sensitively written and acted, beautifully shot, and with a charming, sparingly used score, Minari is so engaging that it’s easy to forget how radical it is. Just a few years ago, a US film about a Korean-American family, with almost all of its dialogue in Korean, would have been unimaginable. Now we have a US film which focuses on one particular Korean-American family in one particular location, and yet it has so much warmth and truth to it that it will be embraced by audiences everywhere.
Minari is released in cinemas in the US on 12 February, and then on demand on 26 February
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