Six Academy Award nominations for a film whose name translates as “Water Celery.” Who would have guessed?
With the principal actors, producer, and the writer/director Lee Isaac Chung all either born in Korea or born in the USA of Korean heritage, one might think that “Minari” would be nominated in the foreign film category. Nope. It got a nomination for best picture, end of the story. Also, best screenplay and best director, which I am sure pleased Denver-born Lee Chung.
Our favorite zombie apocalypse survivor Steven Yeun (who played Glenn in “The Walking Dead”) received a nomination for best-supporting actor. The film also got a nom for best original score. But the big winner, the only one to take home the gilded gimcrack is Youn Yuh-jung, who played the grandmother of the Korean family who tries their hand at farming in 1980s Arkansas.
And what a movie it is.
The acting from everyone from Oscar winner grandma Youn Yuh-jung to Alan S. Kim who plays the young son with a heart problem is without exception, exceptional. The script and direction from Lee Chung are both tight and spare, everything we see or hear on screen is absolutely essential to the story. But we have had wonderfully acted and directed movies, a few anyway, even in this plague year. Why is this one so special?
Because we leave the theater feeling better than we went in. This is an essentially American film, a Horatio Alger movie of people with very little, next to nothing, who in America by striving to seek to make a better life for themselves and their children. Never mind that we stop the story before the hard-working family can triumph over a rocky marriage, fire, harsh illness, new culture, and even lack of water. We learn about the family members, their tenacity, their goodness, and at the end of the day, their devotion to one another. We know that they will achieve the American Dream.
We are also pleased to spend time with the Yi family, mom, dad, brother, sister and grandma.
“Minari” has a mild PG-13 rating. Made with a tiny budget of $2,000,000 it has brought in around $12 million at the box office and more on Apple TV. This tremendously entertaining film runs for one hour and 55 minutes. I think this is the most satisfying film of the year and give it a well-deserved five sawblades.
I think you will like this movie.