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Reviewing the Heartwarming Film ‘Minari’ on the American Dream

Review: 'Minari' provides a quiet, sincere look at the American dream |  Inside The Film Room
A scene from “Minari” with Steven Yeun and Alan S. Kim as father and son. Photo Courtesy of Sundance Institute

The following contains spoilers for the 2020 film titled “Minari.’

I was touched by the drama movie Minari as it displayed the stark reality of the American Dream for many foreign families. The film has a heartwarming plot that easily grasps the audience’s attention and ultimately brings out sympathy for the main characters. The actors are brilliant in displaying their emotions towards situations and perfectly portray their struggles as a foreign family hoping to pursue the American Dream. 

Minari made its first appearance on January 26, 2020, and was directed by Lee Isaac Chung, an American film director who has made multiple movies, including Lucky Life, Abigail Harm, and I Have Seen My Last Born. Minari won the U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury Prize and the U.S. Dramatic Audience Award and has had thousands of positive reviews, obtaining an IMDb of 7.6/10 and 100% rotten tomatoes. Minari is incredibly inspiring and moving, making it one of the most heartfelt movies I have ever seen.

Minari follows a Korean-American family, named the Yi’s, who has recently moved into a small home on a desolate ranch in the rural part of Arkansas. The poor family hopes to pursue the American Dream by starting and growing a successful farm in their land but face multiple struggles due to their living situation. The family lives in close poverty: there is no running water at times and they must burn their trash as there is no other disposal system.

Mrs. Yi does not like their home, stating that the family’s living situation is getting worse and worse and how there is no hospital within miles of them, a place that is crucial for their son’s heart condition. She states that she and the kids, David and Anne, cannot survive like this and begs her husband to move to the city. Mr. Yi, however, is hopeful and excited about his new home, admiring the luxurious soil that he states is “the best dirt in America.” He argues with his wife over their home and survival and eventually convinces her to stay on their farm as he promises her he will be successful.

Mr. Yi works tirelessly on the farm as he digs holes to create his water source for his crops and buys an expensive tractor way out of the family’s budget to cultivate his crops.

Soon, Mr. and Mrs. Yi decide that her mom, Soonja, should stay with them to take care of the kids. When Soonja arrives, Mrs. Yi is ashamed and embarrassed, apologizing to her mother for her current living situation. Soonja, however, states that the new home is exciting and fun, giving her daughter housewarming gifts, food, and money. 

David, however, dislikes Soonja, stating that she is not his real grandma because she does not act like a typical grandmother. He is rude to her, refusing to drink beverages that Soonja offers, pointing out her flaws that make her different from other grandmothers, and openly expressing his annoyance with her smell and loud snoring.

Luckily, as time passes, David and Soonja soon grow closer together, visiting a nearby river and planting Minari’s, a water celery plant that originated in East Asia. Mr. Yi’s farm is also seeing massive improvement: there are rows of crops with various fruits and vegetables and a small shed full of healthy grown produce ready to be sold. 

One day, the Yi’s head into town to check up on David’s heart and to give Mr. Yi’s crops to a buyer. The family arrives at a hospital but Mr. Yi tells them to go in first as he must park in a shadier spot to prevent his crops from rotting in the heat. When the checkup is almost over, Mr. Yi enters the room with the rest of his family, appearing with the box of food that he was supposed to keep in the car. 

When the Yi’s leave the hospital, Mrs. Yi tells the kids to go in the car while she talks to her husband. She confronts him about how he chose the farm over his family when bringing in the box of food into the hospital. She tells him that the family cannot survive in their current situation and states that she has lost faith in him, unable to bear the sight of what the future might hold for them if they are still together. Mr. Yi sadly agrees with his wife’s pleading and agrees to move on from the farm, heading home in silence.

That night, Soonja is burning her trash in a can when a gust of wind knocks out a flaming cardboard box. The fire quickly spreads (with the help of dried weeds and grass), catching onto the shed of food. 

Soon, the family arrives home to the sight of their shed completely ablaze in flames. The family watches in horror as months of hard work and dedication are burnt to ash, the signs of their American Dream only seen as smoke fading into the night sky.

The movie ends with Mr. Yi and his son harvesting the Minaris Soonja planted, implying that Mr. Yi has not given up hope in his dream.

WATCH – Minari - (2020) FULL MOVIE | Minari 2020 Watch
Scene from the film ‘Minari’

The American Dream, or the ideal in which prosperity and success may be obtained through hard work and dedication for foreigners, is pursued by thousands of families. This ideal is still present to this day, as seen with thousands of families immigrating to America. Very few are successful in accomplishing their dreams while the majority lay defeated by the misfortunes our country imposed on them. 

Minari perfectly displays the stark reality of the American Dream and portrays multiple examples of obstacles that may arise with this dream. The Yi’s are a perfect model of a typical family who must face multiple social and emotional barriers that arise within the family and in the outside world.

In Minari, Mr. Yi and Mrs. Yi continually struggle with emotional problems that arise from trying to create a successful and happy life for them and their children. They are forced to work a dead-end job that pays minimum wage only for Mr. Yi to pursue his dream of farming. The job imposes an emotional toll on Mrs. Yi as she believes that the money they make working could be spent on making their lives more luxurious, not on their farm. 

The fact that Mr. Yi is so determined to accomplish this goal of becoming something more than just a father and worker only hurts his family. His constant perseverance causes more problems than benefits between him and his wife as Mrs. Yi begins to lose faith in her husband and his dreams. The Yi’s are put into a horrible living situation that only causes clashes of doubt and hopes between the parents as the emotional tension rises between them. 

David is a perfect example of a child attempting to overcome the social barriers that arise in the American Dream. David struggles with his identity and constantly tries to become like the Americans living around him. This is apparent in his initial relationship with his grandma. He states that she is not his real grandma because she wears men’s underwear, does not bake cookies, and swears.

When Soonja calls David a pretty boy, he gets angry and shouts at her that he is supposed to be called good-looking, not pretty. David’s annoyance with Soonja’s foreign character depicts his yearning to become like a “normal” kid, when, in reality, that dream is impossible to attain.

Mr. Yi’s American Dream ultimately destroys his family as he focuses more on the financial benefits of his farm than his loved ones. This idea is portrayed symbolically when a drawer that Mr. Yi hides all his money in falls and cuts David’s foot. The same drawer frightens Soonja, causing her to believe that that part of the house is haunted. These scenes display how Mr. Yi’s greed for success overcomes his love for his family. The American Dream Mr. Yi tries so hard to pursue only causes harm and fear to his family.

Minari portrays the stark reality for many families when trying to chase the American Dream and perfectly does so through the wonderful actors. The film included several heartfelt scenes that caused me to connect with the characters and feel sympathy for them and their situations. I greatly enjoyed Minari and highly recommend it to those who are seeking dramatic, relatable, touching movies to watch over quarantine.

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