Caleb Sondheim-Hall’s review published on Letterboxd:
way before grandma arrives i noticed that i had a misconception of what America or USA is/represents... obviously my ignorance stems from what i learned in school from the history books, watched on films and tv, etc. i always had the perception that it was caucasian biased and a red-neck type of narrative. when in fact, thanks to this film, i was mistaken.
America does not consist of the white people who inhabit it or wrongfully remark to all immigrants “go back to your country”or “you are in the USA, speak English.” when in fact the former is an ignorant expression and the latter is an incorrect assumption.
first, like the family in this film, many people come to the USA because of economic hardship and many others because of political and social opposition. for years USA has been a haven for all these immigrants. and ironically, the people who brutally colonized it and stole land from the natives, were what... IMMIGRANTS and with that came the white washing that still dominates the media. second, English is not USA’s official language, in fact there is none.
in comes Minari the most American film i’ve seen, since Super Size Me, with Koreans at the center of the story. the ensemble is a movie buff’s wet dream!!! of course Alan Kim steals the show giving a debut that will be remembered at the end of the decade.
i’m more concerned now, more than ever with the industry and yet certainly not surprised that there’s been no praise towards Yeri Han, who for me was the lead along Kim. she takes on the role with the right amount of aplomb and impeccable characterization that immediately gets your imagination racing about her life before arriving to Arkansas. you get a sense of her worry and the family’s continuing struggle, giving insight through her full introspective spectrum of emotions towards the family’s ongoing critical circumstances. if Kim’s performance makes the audience emotionally connect with the Yi fam, Han welcomes us in and makes us care for them. and she assures us that the family is in safe hands whenever she is around.
then we have Yuh-Jung Youn, who gives THE PERFORMANCE and the film’s most grounded one. Youn comes in just when you think the array of interesting characters had come to an end. her mere presence and mystical aura transcends in a way that you actually forget she is human and think of her as the fairy godmother of the Yi fam. in just seconds, Youn pieces the film together as we feel the family is finally complete and the film shifts into full gear. every line delivery is *chef’s kiss*. her charisma is so palpable, that you want her in every scene and prefer the film only takes place at home or near the creek, where she is growing minari. when the falling action comes in and hits Youn’s character the hardest you get worried... worried we won’t see more of her. that’s a testament to Youn’s performance. 👏🏽
rounding up the memorable performances is Steven Yeun, who i felt kinda drifted in the background. maybe on a rewatch (as some have recommended) i will be able to piece his place in the film.
there were silver linings in the direction, but for the most part i felt the experience hollow, despite its colorful characters.
will i watch it again? certainly... i can’t wait to revisit the Yi fam! 💚💙💜