Minari ★★★★

I'm just a white guy, sorry to say, no first-hand immigrant or minority experience under my belt (second-hand though, lemme tell ya! Better yet, not the point), but even I had "Ratatouille"-Anton Ego jolts of instantly firing memory synapses that haven't been accessed in decades while gazing into this film. It's mostly in the little boy's behavior, his bashfulness and obstinacy (not the worst asshole moves he makes, just his general close-minded refusal of things), with some of the house's minor details and the family's daily behavior adding to the effect. I lived many of the subtle sensations depicted in this movie when I was growing up myself...Lee Isaac Chung and the team he's working with keenly decorate, frame and write to a universal ambience of '80s family life totems and practices within this culturally specific story of Korean-American settlers, and without ever coming across as forced or overdone. That's the occasional brilliance of autobiographical stories and art all around, really, that it can be extremely uniquely personal to the storyteller/artist and yet also pluck intensely familiar chords within so many others who come to see it as well, bridging the gap between us all.

Even if I hadn't flashed back to my upbringing time and again here, it's still a pretty lovely midwestern farm-life sojourn overlayed with heretofore far-too-infrequently represented (in U.S. cinema) Asian-American values that aren't judged one way or another, but that observantly, engagingly provoke debate both between its characters and in the audience over matters of gender, race, parenthood, couplehood, childcare and economic stability. Performed honestly and without pretense (MVP nonetheless has to be grandma Youn Yuh-jung), it's a strong, layered accomplishment, whose purported greatness I would challenge only because it all leads to a handful of hackneyed climactic choices (no spoilers, but: what they do with the grandma when they go to the city, the heavy-handed thing that happens that night, the son going after her later) that kind of cripple the understated effect the movie was going for as your exiting impression.

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