Minari, the journey to memories of American director Lee Isaac Chung

Minari has been described by most critics as “a film without great pretensions” which, paradoxically, will make its strength. It lets itself be looked at, in all simplicity, like a memory seen through the eyes of a child. It is about family, mutual aid, the desire to integrate and be reborn. Travel to the great outdoors that is worth the detour.

The story

A Korean-American family moves to a small farm in Arkansas in search of the American dream. The father dreams of having his own Korean vegetable production and for this purpose, he spends all his energy and all his savings in a land that turns out to be uncooperative. However overwhelmed by work, they decide to bring in Soon-ja, the maternal grandmother. Little David, sick of the heart, sees this old woman land in his life with a culture and habits of a country he does not know.

Direction and screenplay : Lee Isaac Chung
Country of origin United States
Genre: Drama
Duration: 115 minutes
2020 release

Main actors
Steven yeun
Han Ye-ri
Alan kim
Noel Kate Cho
Youn Yuh-jung


Stroll ? Chronic? Director Lee Isaac Chung’s memories are tinged with a nostalgic look at an era in his childhood. Large spaces, limpid, luminous images. Nature in all its splendor. And all this amplitude gives oxygen to the harsh reality of his parents.

Without falling into the too deep melody, the characters evolve in this American dream which can quickly turn into a nightmare. An aftertaste of ” Grapes of Wrath Without the anguish succeeding in erasing the innocence and the vision of the world of this little boy. Of course, with a very strong influence from American filmmaker John Ford, the film could have turned into a ruthless quest, into that despair that only failure can engender.

But these Korean pioneers go through the trials and the vagaries of their situation with dignity. Like the Minari (Water Celery) plant, they have the ability to develop, to grow, in any soil. This is the director’s master stroke. His ability not to give more importance to one subject or another and to keep us in an atmosphere where the characters are as grandiose as the landscapes.

Modest movie? We would rather say honest film. Without pretention ? It is precisely his humility that makes him enormous.


Steven yeun has come a long way since he got his head smashed by Negan the psychopath (charismatic, canon, but the real son of…). If this scene traumatized all the followers of The walking dead, since that day we have had all our time to find him alive and well in films praised by critics and loved by the public. He has since become that actor whose film we watch just because he is in the cast.

From the astonishing ” I origins“, Science fiction film where his character lists the irises of all human beings, through” Okja “, small role in the ecological film of the great Bong Joon-ho (Parasite). Without forgetting ” Burning, sure. This American of South Korean origin shows us, confirms us, to what extent he knows how to blend in with his character. Becoming. Would the atmosphere of Burning have been so heavy and impalpable if Steven Yeun, and Yo ah in had not carried the project? Disturbing, with his off-center smile, his confidence. His way of banging the encrusted, crushing anything that could come in front of him… It is difficult to identify him with the discouraged father of ” Minari “, tell yourself that it is the same actor.

His delicacy, his humility, his gaze which is lost in the vast landscape that he dreams of taming. His hopes, his despair, this bar too high. His vital need to recognize himself as a father and a husband above all constraints. This role, performed as if it had been written especially for him, earned him the nomination for Best Actor at the Oscars.

The newspapers liked to recall that it was the first American of Asian origin who was nominated for an Oscar. But as the two grandfathers of the ” Muppet Show “, ” Who cares? “. What matters is that he is a good actor who has shown us a significant development in a very short time.

As for Mrs. Youn Yuh-jung, she surprises again and again. An actress capable of disappearing behind her character. We rediscover it every time: Oh yes ! It is the lady who played in the film … How to associate the fragile granny of ” Canola, to the strong and determined mother of ” Keys To The Heart “? Or the bitch of ” The Housemaid “With the prostitute of the third age, jaded and overwhelmed with” The Bacchus Lady “?

Without forgetting the rape scene of ” The Taste of Money », Abuse of power over her trusted man, 40 years younger and played by Kim Kang-Woo (very sexy, but still!)… How can we compare this awful black spider with the grandmother of little David? Fragile and strong at the same time. Adorable, despite a very raw way of expressing himself, and overflowing with this knowledge of his country of origin.

This role of grandmother from another planet has earned her, not only the Oscar for best actress in a supporting role, but also that Wikipedia attributes “Minari” as “famous films” to her.. If we know her, if we have seen most of her films, this little label ” Well-known films: Minari »Below his photo will make us smile. Or bang our heads against a wall. It’s up to us to see.

Did it have to be in front of American cameras for it to be known to the whole world? For you, film enthusiasts, it is impossible that an actress at the height of Elizabeth Taylor or Audrey Hepburn has passed under your nose. If this is the case, we invite you to fill this gap very quickly, you will only be greatly surprised by its presence and its performance.

Han Ye-ri brings a touch in Minari that could almost be described as a caress. She is the beauty of the great outdoors. She is also the mother who cannot let go, who is worried. And who watches her husband sink, his mother get sick, all their hopes go up in smoke. But the charisma of the actress, the tenderness with which she interprets her role, mark us by her benevolence. And, rather than making us cry, she will make us want to accompany her. To put our hand on his shoulder.

And of course, to finish a big salute to the performance of the children.

Oscars ceremony

Like his character in ” Minari‘, Youn Yuh-jung does not seem like someone who mince words. As proof, in an interview, Lee Isaac Chung spoke about the Golden Globes controversy, or ” Minari‘was nominated in the “Foreign Language Film” category despite its American cast and American writer / director. ” It is very tiring for many of us to be called foreigners, even though we were born here and speak English. This element becomes exhausting ”

During his speech at the Oscars ceremony, Youn Yuh-jung said she didn’t believe in competitions. ” How can I win against Glenn Close? We’ve all played different roles in different movies. How can we compete with each other? If I am here it is because I had a little better luck. I’m luckier than you are (Audience laughter). Maybe it’s about American hospitality to Koreans?

Is she referring to the new Oscars rules that will take effect in 2024? ” Here are the conditions for the film to be eligible.

  • One of the main actors or one of the important secondary actors must be from an under-represented racial or ethnic group.
  • 30% of the general cast must be from an under-represented social group (female, LGBTQ, an under-represented racial or ethnic group, or people with cognitive or physical disabilities)
  • Let the script focus on an under-represented group. Behind the screen, the film should allow access to training or welcome more women or people of color into its teams. “(Source).

Did she say out loud what everyone was thinking out loud? It is obvious that in his place we would ask the same question: Did I receive the Oscar thanks to my performance or just to show the world to what extent Americans are not racist? She ends by saying that she is not sure. Anyone in the know either.

As usual, Asian cinema gives the impression that nothing is happening. That we are in the contemplative. Or in déjà vu, or in a world which, by its codes, does not reach us. But, be careful, the depth of this film, its phenomenal sincerity, can only conquer you even if it is without your knowledge.


Sundance Film Festival 2020:
Grand jury prize
Public Prize
Golden Globes 2021: Best Foreign Language Film
Oscars 2021: Best Supporting Actress for Youn Yuh-jung


Oscars 2021:
Best film
Best director
Best Actor for Steven Yeun
Best Original Screenplay
Best Film Music

We wish to thank the writer of this post for this amazing content

Minari, the journey to memories of American director Lee Isaac Chung

Hank Gilbert