“Minari” is a happy smile of a movie about a Korean-American family (mom, dad, young boy and girl) moving to Arkansas in the 1980s to try farming. There’s potential for a lot of major drama — the boy has a heart murmur; grandma comes to live with them; how do Arkansans feel about foreigners? — but instead writer-director Lee Isaac Chung delivers relatable, everyday dramas: Mom (Yeri Han) is skeptical that Dad (Steven Yeun) can pull off the farming thing, which strains their marriage; the kids (Alan S. Kim, Noel Cho) get Grandma (Youn Yuh-jung) hooked on Mountain Dew (“water from the mountains,” they call it); the family looks for a church to attend. The locals are nice to them. I kept waiting for the racism, and it never happened. Way to leave me hangin’ on the racism, bud!
Chung’s approach is so warm and human. He has affection for the characters, who have affection for one another. I suspect that if I had only read the screenplay, I would have guessed it would make a slow, boring movie. But while it’s certainly not action-packed, it doesn’t lag. It moves along at the steady pace of life. It was my favorite movie of the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.
A- (1 hr., 55 min.; )