Even COVID 19 can’t kill Oscar Buzz, and one of the most talked about contenders this year, Minari, hopes to get a boost in L.A. (even though theaters still aren’t open) thanks to your local drive-in.
WE Drive-Ins in Santa Monica is your best local bet with nightly screenings now thru Feb. 25. WE has an exclusive lease of the historic Santa Monica Sears parking lot for its screenings of first-run films sure to dominate this awards season (Nomadland starts Feb. 26). With state of the art projectors and sound transmitted via Dolby FM transmitters into vehicles, it’s the next best thing to the multi-plex. Food available for pre-order from Mendocino Farms and Tocaya Organica; concessions and soft drinks will also be available on site. Minari at WE Drive-in at The Mark, 302 Colorado Ave. Santa Monica. Tickets and info at wedriveins.brushfire.com/minari.
In his moving second feature, Minari, writer/director Lee Isaac Chung dives into the specific and the personal to unearth universal nuggets of truth about family, work and the American dream. At the beginning, we meet a family on their rural farm in Arkansas: father Jacob (Steven Yeun), mother Monica (Yeri Han), and children Anne (Noel Cho) and David (Alan S. Kim). Soon, a fifth person joins them–Grandma (Yuh-Jung Youn), who is visiting from North Korea. Time goes by, a few seasons pass, grass grows, plums are harvested. And, slowly, we get to know the family and their story.
The story is mostly seen through the eyes of David, something of a stand-in for Chung himself, as he based the screenplay on his experience growing up on a farm in Lincoln, Arkansas, in the 1980’s. This point of view lends Minari a feeling of childlike wonder, which is organically conveyed through the storytelling, cinematographer Lachlan Milne’s lush imagery and composer Emile Mosseri’s lilting score. Even though this is a story of the American dream, its struggles and sacrifices, it’s the grace notes that stick with you. The farm is Jacob’s chance to be his own boss. He’s tired of working factories. But it’s more than just a place of work. It’s a place to live, to play, to make memories that will last for decades, like the time David peed in Grandma’s cup and told her it was Mountain Dew (something Chung did to his own Grandma).
Minari in its quiet way, shows us a boy learning to love his Grandma; a town where everyone smiles; a garden that grows and withers and regrows; and, most of all, a family changed with the years but as constant as the seasons. It’s a funny, heartfelt and bittersweet film that will ring true to anyone who knows the joys and agonies of a large, complicated household, regardless of culture, ethnicity or nationality.