allain’s review published on Letterboxd:
Since it’s the last day of 2020, I’ve been thinking of one film that will complete my year. I’ve thought that maybe rewatching Hamilton (2020) for the nth time would do it or The Shawshank Redemption (1994) to give me an inspiration for the next year to come, but instead I chose Minari (2020). Why, you may ask? I’ve been wondering why I chose this film too. Maybe it’s because I’ve been anticipating this Asian-directed 2020-released film for too long since the release of its trailer or maybe because I just want to see Steven Yeun looking hot in a white t-shirt, but whatever the reason is, I’m glad that I picked it.
I am no immigrant–I’m very skeptical of leaving my country, despite everything that is happening in here–but I’ve experience cultural differences and struggles when my family moved from my province of Sorsogon to the city of Manila back when I was a child. I remember being that naive little kid whose overall demeanor didn’t conform with the other kids of my age. It felt suffocating, being the odd one out during my elementary days, not knowing and having much; the feeling of starting over again because all the people I knew were in a place far away from me. But I didn’t think of it that much during those times, because I’ve had my parents and siblings with me. Even though I feel isolated, I still have a family giving me unconditional love and support. It didn’t matter what other people think, because they’re no family to me, and only the opinions of my family mattered.
Maybe that’s the reason why Minari cuts deep. It’s an autobiographical drama about family, ambition, and culture, made by an Asian director, along with an Asian-led cast. I felt seen and represented, in some way, because of multiple scenes that are reflective of my childhood. I hated my grandmother because of all the unappetizing food she brought with her when she visited us before. My parents used to fight about our home, our financials, and our future. Hell, I’ve almost burned down my house because my dumb 7-year-old self attempted to fry an egg without parent supervision. This film is more than just a film; it’s a portrait of Asian families and traditions–one that absolutely hits close to home.
The characters are interestingly unique, the storyline is immensely riveting, especially during its climax, and the score completely shattered my emotions, with its compelling music that synchronizes well with the scene being shown. Some people may describe this film as dull, ambiguous, or incomprehensible, but as someone who grew up watching white people do the most nonsensical of things and call it a film, I finally felt represented. Director Lee Isaac Chung fleshed out a heartfelt drama that epitomizes the American dream while being an Asian and gave it justice, with the help of Steven Yeun and Han Ye-ri’s gripping performances.
This may come as no surprise but I can’t believe a film with a title of a Korean water celery managed to make me convulse in tears twice. You may remember me asking why I chose this film as my year-ender a few paragraphs ago and now I finally composed an answer: because it’s so damn good. Thank you, Lee Isaac Chung for creating a film that resonates to an audience not often talked about and I can’t wait to watch more from you in the near future.
Happy New Year (or Happy New Year’s Eve) everyone! May 2021 be kinder and less disastrous than 2020 is. Hope y’all have a wonderful new year celebration with your family, friends, significant other, or a mixture of all three!