Edgar Momplaisir’s review published on Letterboxd:
I promise that I will give a movie less than 5 stars soon, but Minari ain’t the one. It’s quiet, slice of life pace is everything I want in a film both as an audience member and a creator.
Let’s get right to it: the Oscars fucked up. I know every critic has said this, every tweet has said this, but I am going to say it again: Minari is an American tale and its exclusion from the Best Picture race says a lot about whose story about settling in this country we think should be told. It’s about people taking up land and doing their best to make it work. How is that any different than Days of Heaven or Grapes of Wrath? The obvious answer is the color of the leads’ skin but something much sadder is at play here: the story doesn’t uphold the myth of forward American progress and doubly so because it’s told from the immigrant perspective. Chung, in an interview, said the movie questions if the protagonists’ lives really improved after leaving Korea. Perhaps, that’s a story that isn’t worth celebrating to the Academy. Stories about white struggle for the American dream suggest that said dream is worth the struggle. Minari does not.
But enough about what frustrates me. Here’s what I loved: the grandma. I was walking with a friend and I told her that this film and The Farewell are so attractive to me because they are about immigrant experiences in a way that I relate to. Whereas, Black cinema in America hasn’t really caught up to telling the stories of Black immigrants. And after watching this film, that grandma is my grandma. The actor, Young Yuh-jung, absolutely kills the part and steals every single scene that she’s in. She feels so authentic and so real. Her teasing of Jacob, her smelly medicine, the way she shat on the White people in the town. It was so spot on.
Also, kudos to Lee Isaac Chung on this script. A majority of the film is in Korean, yet the dialogue still struck me even though I was reading subtitles. The emotions of every character was so thought out and so round. Every character felt alive and unique in a special way.
I want more of these films. I want less WandaVision.