When I watched writer-director Lee Isaac Chung’s Minari, knowing nothing about its origins, my immediate thought was that it had to be based on real-life events. The details were too precise, and the emotions too full-hearted, for it to be anything but a collection of memories committed to film.
Sure enough, I soon learned that Chung based the film on his own Korean immigrant family’s experiences starting a farm in rural Arkansas. Every interaction feels so true to life because he lived it.
Minari is a beautiful American story, about newcomers to this country who pave a path through big dreams and hard work. It doesn’t shy away from the toll that path takes on the family itself, as the parents’ marriage is strained and the children must learn to adapt to their new surroundings.
Minari reminded me of Jim Sheridan’s 2002 In America, another immigrant tale set in the 80s that tells its story through a child’s eyes. From that film’s Hell’s Kitchen setting to Minari‘s Arkansas farmland, it’s heartening to see what different forms the American dream can take.