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.