There's an old parable about a bear who lives in the circus. When he's not performing, the bear is kept in a small cage with barely enough room to walk around. So the bear spends his days pacing in circles, the same loop over and over again. One day, the bear's trainer forgets to lock the door. He realizes his mistake and rushes back, fearing that a ferocious animal is on the loose. But he finds that he has nothing…
There's something uniquely feminine about this movie. Leyla is allowed to be intelligent and curious and self-assured while also being nurturing and kind-hearted. Canan is conflicted in a way that feels natural and not plot-driven. There are no villains. No angry screeds or violent confrontations. It's deliberately paced but never boring. Warm but not cloying. It's something special.
Minari is sweet but not saccharine. It's funny but not goofy. It's dramatic but never abandons recognizable reality. The performances are fantastic across the board, with each actor fully inhabiting their role in the family and Will Patton impressing as a family friend. The story isn't particularly complex, just a small slice of life about an immigrant family trying to make a new home. That simplicity serves Chung well as he's able to craft a film that people are really connecting with. Immigrant or not, it's easy to see ourselves and our loved ones in Minari's mix of familial joy and melancholy.