Here’s the latest from the crossroads of faith, media & culture: 02/12/21

A24 Minari Poster
Acclaimed Korean-American family drama Minari opens in theaters today 2/12. The film, which scored a Grand Jury Prize and a U.S. Dramatic Audience Award at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, is also the subject of controversy because it is nominated in the Best Foreign Language Motion Picture category even though it was produced by Americans, filmed in America and, though mostly in Korean, includes large amounts English dialogue. The title Minari refers to a Korean version of what Americans would refer to as watercress.

Synopsis: A tender and sweeping story about what roots us, Minari follows a Korean-American family that moves to a tiny Arkansas farm in search of their own American Dream. The family home changes completely with the arrival of their sly, foul-mouthed, but incredibly loving grandmother. Amidst the instability and challenges of this new life in the rugged Ozarks, Minari shows the undeniable resilience of family and what really makes a home. (My review beneath trailer.)

Starring: Steven Yeun, Yeri Han, Alan Kim, Noel Kate Cho and Yuh-Jung Youn/Written and Directed by Lee Isaac Chung/Executive Producers: Brad Pitt and Steven Yeun/Rated PG-13   

IMHO: The idea of a guy from Korea moving his family from Korea to a rural town in Arkansas to buy a farm sounds like a sitcom premise – a sort of 2021 diverse version of Green Acres (one of my all-time favorite shows). Actually it’s a compassionate and believable drama that – in an honest and realistic way – actually celebrates both America and faith (including a strong suggestion about the power of prayer). David and Monica Yi are a couple pushed to the brink of marriage collapse as they face more than their share of physical and economic challenges – including a young son with a heart condition.

People in rural parts of the country – used to being portrayed as lazy, ignorant, anti-immigrant yahoos by too many Hollywood films – will appreciate that they are refreshingly presented here as good, decent and welcoming people by writer-director Lee Isaac Chung who comes from a South Korean family and actually grew up on a farm in Lincoln, Arkansas. 

The performances all around ring totally true. You’ll be hard-pressed to identify a false note.  In a sense, that may be a part of the film’s challenge if it hopes to break out of not only the Foreign Language category at award shows but also out of art house theaters. It’s logical and true, of course, that the South Korean family, while home alone and conversing with one another would do so in their native language. But, fairly or not, the fact that much of the film is not in English may make it less accessible to typical American movie goers who aren’t xenophobic but prefer not to have to do too much reading while viewing a movie.

That side issue aside, Minari is a very good film with a lot of heart and is highly recommended.
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Overlooked Story of the Week:

Toyota scores. The car company managed to slip this amazingly pro-life message onto CBS during the Super Bowl. Very nice.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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