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Laramie Movie Scope: Minari

A good portrait of the immigrant experience

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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March 12, 2021 – I finally got to see this hard-to-find but much celebrated movie last night. I assume most critics saw this last year on restricted streaming services because the movie's theatrical release was February 11, 2021 in New Zealand, according to Box Office mojo. I don't live in New Zealand.

While this film didn't quite make my top 10 list for 2020, perhaps because my expectations for it were so high, it is certainly a good, entertaining, and emotive movie.

This movie is a drama, with quite a bit of humor, about the struggles of a family, not only to adapt to a new country, but an entirely different place and lifestyle within that new country. This Korean family has moved from California to Arkansas, and from a city to rural property to start a farm.

Trouble starts right away when Monica (played by Yeri Han) arrives at the property and discovers her husband, Jacob (Steven Yeun of “Okja”) did not accurately describe the house and property to her before the family moved to it. This is not a house in the suburbs, it is a mobile home on land in a remote, rural area, far from town. She is not a happy camper.

Jacob had told his wife he was going to plant a garden, but his real plan is to plant a 50 acre farm. His plan is to plant, grow and sell food to Korean markets in big cities, catering to people who like Korean food. He thinks this is an under-served market. It is a gamble.

Jacob enlists the aid of his children, David (Alan Kim) and Anne (Noel Kate Cho) to persuade his wife to stay at the farm. With no hope of finding a babysitter for the children, the family arranges for Monica's mother, Soon-ja (Youn Yuh-jung) to move to the U.S. from Korea. Soon-ja soon arrives to become the fifth resident at the small house.

David has some trouble adjusting to the presence of his grandmother. He keeps saying that she doesn't act like a grandmother. She likes to watch pro wrestling on TV, and has a habit of cursing.

Jacob is befriended by a religious oddball named Paul (Will Patton of “Remember the Titans”). He agrees to hire Paul to help him with the farm. Paul speaks in tongues and carries a big cross down country roads every Sunday. He also performs exorcisms on the farm that he thinks are helpful because the previous owner committed suicide.

The reason for the previous owner's suicide comes into focus later on in the story. The land does seem to have a kind of curse on it, and the family endures several serious problems. When the success of the farm becomes Jacob's highest priority, instead of his own family, his conflict with Monica comes to a climax.

This movie is powered by a predictable, but solid story and some excellent performances, especially those of the incredibly cute child actor Alan Kim, and veteran actor Will Patton. Alan Kim's character, David is a little too precocious and studied to be entirely believable, but he is charming enough to get away with an overly assured one-liner like “what does pee taste like?” Patton plays the extremely religious, highly eccentric, but affable farmhand Dave.

If you are looking for a feel-good movie with heart, this film has the goods. It rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff (no extra charges apply). I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2021 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)

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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at dalek three zero one nine at gmail dot com [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]