Minari Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

For as long as cinema has been around, the theme of achieving the American Dream has always been evident. People come to America, thinking they could lead better lives, until they get there, and find that the system works against their people. What Lee Isaac Chung does in Minari, is show the struggle of one Korean-American family, trying to achieve the American Dream after moving to Missouri. Chung explores what goes into making a home, is it the location or the people you’re with? Both, Monica (Han Ye-ri) and Jacob (Steven Yeun) navigate their new life and explore the meaning of living.

The film begins with a beautiful scenic drive, capturing the beauty and richness of the land. Later showing that Jacob’s family would be living on farmland. The location of the farm was vibrant and showed the wonder of nature. Chung showed the roots of life, while Jacob’s family dealt with financial issues, family illness and an additional family member coming to live with them. The film highlights everyday situations that American families struggle with and Chung counters that with showing the importance of life’s natural resources.

The family dynamic consisting of Jacob, Monica, David (Alan S. Kim) and Anne (Noel Cho) worked really well. They were all great characters who had different connections with each other. We saw that Jacob and David were closer, Chung wanted to develop their connection in a very natural way and succeeded. The star of this film is little David. Alan S. Kim has such a wonderful presence on screen and added so much emotional depth to certain scenes. David has a heart condition that sets the viewer to worry about him during simple, everyday activities. David’s connection with his Korean grandmother, Soonja (Youn Yuh-jung) was the highlight of the film. We see how heritage can blend with American traditions and how a younger generations can learn to appreciate it.

Minari is a beautiful film that will keep you interested in their family dynamic with it’s very natural script. As the viewer you are examining the lives of this Korean-American family and learning how they approach living their everyday life. It is rooted in the American Dream but dives into the family structure about conforming to their surroundings. It isn’t until grandma Soonja comes in and changes their perception of what a home truly is. The family structure is challenged by financial and health issues but in the end, they realize there is nothing more important than the love shared between family.

Midsommar Review and Analysis

Ari Aster’s sophomore film is much more inventive than Hereditary and has undertones of grief in all forms. People often associate grief with death, but it can also be applied to any loss and the emotional journey in which that takes you on.

Florence Pugh delivers a very honest, innocent and internal performance that is very beautiful to sit through. Her energy is just so pure that from the very beginning of the film you just want to protect her at all costs.

This being said, Ari Aster is a wonderful filmmaker, the camerawork and cinematography were absolutely stunning, for a film that is so eerie and graphic to take place in an open field in broad daylight was very different and I commend him for that. Most horror films (I do not consider this a horror in any sense whatsoever but it’s still classified as one and marketed as one) have such a dark setting that it’s almost impossible to understand what is happening at certain moments. In Midsommar everything was laid out in front of the camera allowing audiences to vividly see the gore and deaths. He tried to do something different and I respect the way he told the story visually.

The issue I have with Hereditary and Midsommar is that the cult symbolism in both films do not directly correlate to the thematic undertones. Both films started with themes of family dysfunction and grief but ended in a very different place. At least with Midsommar it was more cohesive as a narrative because Dani and Christian’s relationship was already on the rocks, so the ending somewhat made sense. There is very little explanation as to why these characters end up in these cult situations and I just think that he can elaborate more when trying to come up with a shocking third act finale.

I also feel that the lead characters do not get the chance to ever build on their repressed emotions. It was hard to watch Dani take what Christian was giving her and she was just very nonchalant about how he was treating her. The smirk she gave at the end of the film was too subtle considering the action that she was forced to do.

I also understand that Ari also chose to show the 5 stages of grief throughout the film:

Denial – the initial reaction after her parents and sister die, she was screaming and she did not want to believe that it was true.

Anger – the shrooms trip that she got the first day in Sweden, she was extremely angry

Bargaining – I would say that weighing the pros and cons of her relationship with Christian would fit this and the fact that she wanted to leave.

Depression – They showed her emotional state throughout

Acceptance – the third act is her processing the concept of death and then allowing herself to move forward from her old life and Christian was the last thing that tied her to her past self.

I could definitely analyze the film scene by scene, especially considering Dani and Christian’s relationship and how the major family death forcefully pushed them together and then the trip to Sweden was positioned to salvage it. There were a series of tests for Christian and he continued to fail her on an emotional level. They were disjointed from the start and she could feel him distancing himself from her. He was also very selfish and he manipulated her into thinking that he was the victim in majority of their arguments.

This film is aesthetically pleasing, the sound design is lovely and the story was better than Hereditary. Ari just has to create some sort of balance in his third act in order to bring everything together.