Minari ★★★★★

A gorgeous cinematic breath of fresh air. It’s a warm memory of childhood that never feels nostalgic or overly sentimental, and a clear-eyed reflection on the difficulties of chasing the mythological American dream. The family dynamic is beautifully natural, full of prickly and tender interactions in equal measure, and their conflict feels refreshingly subdued — it’s mostly internal, and borne out of mismatched expectations and misplaced priorities instead of melodramatic tragedies and outright betrayals. Lee Isaac Chung cleverly loads about ten Chekov’s guns that all bring enormous tension to the quietest scenes, but only fires one by the end of the film, which makes his story seem all the more lifelike, as fear constantly lingers but rarely manifests.

It’s practically impossible to pick a favorite performance because the cast is so uniformly fantastic and expertly balanced, with each member inhabiting a distinct mode of quiet, honest desperation. And Lachlan Milne’s cinematography and Emile Mosseri’s score add further texture and emotion to every appropriate moment. If you can only see one awards contender before Sunday, this ought to be it.

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