Growing up, I never saw my Korean-American parents touching each other. No hugs or kisses, or even pats on the back. It was not a by-product of a loving marriage, just a result of life focused on survival – an endless list of indirect crores. I have lived 30 years without accepting such biographical details, acknowledging that the nuances of my life can never make it into mainstream culture.
This year, watching “Minari” Challenged that notion. For the first time, I introduced my parents and all their Platonic methods in 4K clarity. I felt seen. But, watching this tender film about a Korean-American family and relating to it, dying for a better life in rural Arkansas, also hurt me.
That’s because “Minery” was not a film about an emotionally supportive family, nor was it about East Asian parents consciously going through their traditions, or about a wife Who as her husband had great influence in family decisions. Like in my own life, I thought.
Keeping these comments in mind reminds me of what reality immigrants accept in fulfilling the American dream, and the complete, uncomfortable picture of the immigrant experience that we rarely portray onscreen.
Because “Minari” does not depend on the orthodox views of immigrants, some of these nuances may be difficult to notice. As in reality, hope and suffering occupy similar scenes.
I found the lost piece of an emotionally supportive family particularly poignant as it defined my own relationships.
In “Minieri”, the family is led by Korean-American immigrant parents Jacob and Monica Yee, who perform exhausting tasks as chicken sexers who sort male females from males. The couple, along with their school-aged children, Anne and David, have moved onto a plot of land in rural Arkansas. Jacob expects the site to be transformed into his own farm and to increase Korean produce to sell to local vendors.
Starting a farm on limited funds – while working full-time – is not easy, and Yakub quickly gets ready for his crops. We rarely see him as a loving father or supportive husband. He is shown spending a few moments with his son while he is at the farm.
In a scene towards the end, Yakub’s absence shows his family in a more intense manner.
Jacob and Monica drive David to a checkup for heart disease. Yakub digs a box of fresh produce, hoping to sign up a new salesman on the same road trip. When the family approaches the doctor, Jacob hesitates to leave his produce in the car and sends the family further, searching for a shaded spot. Unsuccessful, he shows up several times later with the production box in his hands, prioritizing his safety over the timely appearance of David’s appointment.
The situation feels quite innocent. Yakub saves his produce from the intense heat and takes him to an appointment when he is late. But it is one of those scenes that make it clear where their priorities lie.
As a person who grew up with a workaholic father himself, I know how this relationship moves between scenes: an emotionally distant attempt to bond with a parent, a routine to temper his anger Necessity and ultimately, a feeling that you need something really extraordinary to get your attention. but Steven Yeun’s portrayal of Jacob It is also accurate, because with my father, I know that any of his faults are the result of his complete – though sometimes unfairly – commitment to the family’s financial stability.
“Minari” also reminds us that inheritance is never mentioned and is eventually lost in the hectic labor of assimilation. While most of the dialogue in “Minari” is in Korean, we never get a glimpse of Monica and Jacob from their traditions for Anne and David in any meaningful way. The Korean inheritance that children inherit comes in the way of food, which David sometimes repeats.
I am sad to see David dismissing his grandmother saying that she “smells like Korea” and pushing her medicinal honeycomb away (which is the dark brown liquid we use from a bowl See drinking). I have never had a close relationship with my grandmother, nor have I ever been given the opportunity to connect with my culture, if I have to live in Korea I will feel at home. Watching “Minari” made me feel as if I am watching the origin story of my Korean-American identity crisis.
To understand the Yi family, you also have to accept the old gender roles that come back to the family when they start anew.
Despite her strong opinions and clear sense of self, Monica has little agency as a wife and mother. It is not Monica’s decision where to live, what to do with their land, or how to spend their money. This is Jacob. And given her determination to implement her decisions, we understand that Monica’s opinion is much less dominated. As a Korean-American, I was not surprised by this power imbalance – South Korea works deeply Vice Chancellor’s Society, and when many immigrant families move abroad, they import sexist perceptions that structure their lives back home. (It is true almost anywhere that in times of crisis – like the current epidemic – Women Often take more advantage of homework.)
Of course, whether she is a helpless mother or a clear understanding of where they are from, Anne and David know that there are missing pieces in their lives. Or at least they will at some point as they become adults.
As many immigrants know, these conflicts are inherited to the children of immigrants, their learned traumas manifest themselves in less poetic ways: in a persistent belief in conditional love, in a fragmented sense of identity (not Asian enough, Nor American enough), and a strange and outdated understanding of gender roles.
“Mineri” is a powerful film because it has the courage to show these painful protests that contribute to our happiness.
The film’s director Lee Isaac Chung said in an interview, “Immigration stories are family stories. Npr. “What is often overlooked in that story is that a lot is happening that is caused by a feeling of love, a feeling of willingness to sacrifice for one another.”
“Minari” depicts the daily sacrifices that are shown without, by which the family learns to do without. And finally, in not allowing a Korean-American family to be truly defined by this suffering, the film somehow arrives at an incredibly honest portrayal of life as a newcomer.
Michelle No is a freelancer writer covering entertainment and lifestyle topics.