With everything up in the air at the moment, it's easy to forget we're in the middle of awards season. Traditionally, the Oscars would be held in February, but owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, they're now taking place on 25th April. And a major awards contender is emerging in the form of Minari.
Fans of The Walking Dead will recognise lead actor Steven Yeun, who has been drawing critical raves for this intimate look at the immigrant experience. Yeun plays Jacob Yi, a South Korean man who emigrated to California in the 1970s. Later in the 1980s, he makes the decision to move his family, including wife Monica (Han Ye-Ri) and their two children, to a small town in Arkansas to begin a new life.
Together, the family must adjust to their new surroundings and re-assert their loving bond. Before long, Monica invites her widowed, unconventional, larger-than-life mother Soonja (Yu-Jung Youn) to come and live with them, and David finds himself pulled between two very different cultures. Should he turn his back on his Korean ancestry and fully embrace the Americana lifestyle, or should he try and find a compromise?
Minari is the fourth feature film from director Lee Isaac Chung, and is named after a plant that is commonplace in Korean culture. Critics say that the film explores the notion of a cultural split in subtly powerful ways, exposing the faultlines at the heart of the so-called 'American dream'.
Indiewire's David Ehrlich gives the film an especially glowing appraisal: "Gentle as the stream that flows through the Yi’s property, and yet powerful enough to reverberate for generations to come, Chung’s loving — and immensely lovable — immigrant drama interrogates the American Dream with the hard-edged hope of a family that needs to believe in something before they lose all faith in each other."
The movie has already done well on the independent awards circuit, garnering Chung two prizes at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. It's expected that Minari will gather a clutch of nominations at the Golden Globes and the Oscars, and we'll get to see it in the UK (conditions permitting) from 17th March. Let us know @Cineworld if it's on your radar.
In the meantime, stay up to date with the 2020 Oscar contenders here on the Cineworld blog. And if you're looking for a reminder of another cracking Steven Yeun performance, check him out in Lee Chang-dong's superbly unsettling Burning.