Minari

Movie review by
Monique Jones, Common Sense Media
Minari Movie Poster Image
 Parents recommend
Thoughtful, inspiring drama promotes family understanding.
  • PG-13
  • 2020
  • 115 minutes

Parents say

age 9+
Based on 5 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 6 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The Yi family learns how to be more compassionate and supportive of one another in trying times. Jacob's persistence to succeed at farming demonstrates -- to both viewers and his children -- perseverance. The Yi family learns how to work together to protect one another and achieve large goals. 

Positive Role Models

Jacob and Monica are positive, humanistic examples of parents who want the best for themselves and their children, despite making mistakes. Jacob showcases perseverance and ingenuity. Monica shows how practicality is an asset when taking care of a family. Anne is a great example of an older sibling: She cares for, protects her younger brother, David, who exemplifies childlike curiosity, precociousness. David and Anne's grandmother, Soonja, is a fun example of a caring yet individualistic grandmother, showing that grandparents don't have to act stereotypically to be considered lovable guardians. Other characters make stereotypical assumptions about the Yis.

Violence

Jacob and Monica loudly argue about the future of their family while Anne tries to shield David from the argument with distractions; this isn't physical violence, but the volume and imagery of parents fighting could trigger certain viewers regarding emotional violence. A barn/shed fire causes property damage and is upsetting but doesn't harm any people.

Sex
Language

Infrequent use of words including "damn" and "bastard." Infrequent use of offensive words that stereotype East Asian languages, such as "ching chong." A child makes a rude hand gesture to the Yis' farmhand.

Consumerism

Frequent references to Mountain Dew, including imagery of the Mountain Dew bottle. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Jacob smokes cigarettes; children try chewing tobacco.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Minari is a thoughtful family drama, written and directed by Lee Isaac Chung, that's set in the 1980s. It focuses on the Yi family's move from California to Arkansas to fulfill husband Jacob's (Steven Yeun) dream of owning a farm. That dream is in opposition to his wife Monica's (Yeri Han) goal of raising her family with financial and social stability. Expect mild swearing ("damn," "bastard") and a rude gesture, as well as cigarette smoking and minor instances of the Yis' children getting stereotyped by their new friends. Grandmother Soonja (Yuh-jung Youn) helps provide the Yi children with context for the impact that dueling American and Korean cultures have on their lives. There's a barn fire (no one is injured), and Jacob and Monica argue, which may lead viewers to talk about how to cope with parental disagreements. But the film also promotes character strengths such as perseverance, empathy, compassion, and teamwork -- especially when the Yis work together to solve problems and meet one another's needs. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 13 and 16-year-old Written bySocalmom9 March 21, 2021

5 stars? In what world?

I can see why critics liked this movie. It was very boring with little resolution. But at least it was depressing. The only person in the family with any spark... Continue reading
Parent of a 10-year-old Written bybeachdora February 28, 2021

Amazing movie about resilience and love of family

I hope people don't pass on this movie thinking it's specific to the Asian-American or immigrant experience (as even the movie poster seems to imply w... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old February 26, 2021

AMAZING

This movie was absolutely the best. It is in Korean all the way through but, there are subtitles. This means that you have to follow along well because they com... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byMr. Mongo September 26, 2021

yes

pretty good. kid friendly

What's the story?

MINARI tells the story of the Yi family through the eyes of David (Alan S. Kim), a young boy whose family has uprooted from California to Arkansas to chase his father Jacob's (Steven Yeun) dream of owning a farm. David and his older sister, Anne (Noel Cho), try to find their place in Arkansas, while their mother, Monica (Yeri Han), wishes she was still in California, where she felt comfortable surrounded by friends and a familiar social structure. Monica's discomfort causes her to resent Jacob's dream, while Jacob tries his best to make his wife and family comfortable, despite his tendency to put his dream first. The arrival of Monica's mother, Soonja (Yuh-jung Youn), also complicates matters, even though she came to make Monica feel less displaced. Family tragedies, involving a family member and the farm itself, bring the Yis back from the brink of separation and remind them that the feeling of "home" is within the family unit, not outside of it. 

Is it any good?

Writer-director Lee Isaac Chung's excellent drama is semi-autobiographical; like David, Chung also grew up on his father's farm in Arkansas. Chung's recollection of his own childhood might be what gives Minari its dreamlike calmness and flow, making the film an easy, ethereal-feeling watch. Yeun shines in the role of Jacob, a father who's desperate to make his farming dream come true. Jacob is one of Yeun's best roles, if not his best yet. He shows here that he has far more range than even his extensive time on The Walking Dead allowed him to access. And Han is a great scene partner for him as Monica, who's finally at the end of her rope when it comes to Jacob putting his dreams over the family's stability. She gives depth to a role that could have been reduced to "nagging wife"; instead, she shows how Monica longs to feel her connections to her culture and life in California instead of dealing with Arkansas and its lack of a booming Korean American population. Monica also wants to make sure that her children are properly taken care of, and she's comfortable working on a chicken farm to make money as long as her children are provided for. But Jacob resents working for others and wants to be his own man. The couple's fundamental differences in goal-setting and aspirations provide the drama for this film, which all comes down to familial relationships and understanding. 

Kim excels as David, a surprisingly weighty role for a child, despite David's precociousness. David is the glue that holds the Yi family together, albeit mostly through fear: He was born with a heart defect, and his parents worry that he could die young. This anxiety drives Jacob and Monica harder in their disparate missions to take care of their children and protect them from harm. David's anxieties are tempered by his thoughtful, responsible sister Anne, played expertly by Cho, and his grandmother Soonja, played marvelously by Youn. Soonja, in fact, becomes David's friend, and it's through Soonja that David learns more about family togetherness and personal strength. Overall, Minari is a timeless tale of a family learning to work together and understand each other to overcome the odds that the United States has stacked against them. It's a film that shows that no matter where we come from, our concerns, wishes, and dreams are very similar. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about life changes. What emotions can arise when life events happen? What are good ways to cope with positive or negative life events?

  • What strategies can you use to gain perseverance? What makes that an important character strength?

  • What are constructive ways to have disagreements with others? How do you show gratitude for your family?

  • Is it typical to see stories like the Yis' in mainstream American movies? Why is representation in the media important?

Movie details

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