Set in the 1980s, Minari is the story of the Yi family, young South Korean immigrants who move from California, where they belong to a large Korean community, to rural Arkansas.
The ambitious father, Jacob (Steven Yeun), plans to create a market garden, growing Korean vegetables to sell to Korean communities. His wife, Monica (Han Ye-ri), is sceptical and horrified to find herself living in a caravan home in the middle of nowhere. They have two children, David (Alan Kim) and Anne (Noel Kate Cho). David has a heart condition, which means he must be careful not to overexert himself. Monica is concerned that something might happen to David if he’s left alone while she and their father work all day. So Monica arranges for her mother to come from Korea to live with them and care for David.
At first David isn’t impressed with his grandmother. He says she doesn’t behave like a normal grandmother – she doesn’t bake cookies, she swears too much and she wears men’s underwear. But David and his grandmother slowly develop a beautiful and respectful relationship.
When things take an unexpected turn for the worst, the family must struggle to overcome the tensions among them and find the things that hold them together.
Immigration; family; parental separation; grandparents; South Korean culture; nature; tragedy; illness and mortality; the American dream; Christianity; faith; religion
Minari has some violence. For example:
- A young boy throws a stone at a snake to scare it away.
- There are several scenes of a husband and wife arguing and shouting angrily at each other. Apart from one scene where the husband bangs his fist down loudly on the table, there’s no physical violence, but there’s a lot of emotional and psychological tension. The two children are in the next room, listening and feeling upset.
- When the father hears some bad news, he’s overcome by frustration and anger and begins to violently kick objects.
- A father threatens to punish his son for being naughty by telling him to bring ‘the stick’. This happens twice and it’s implied that ‘the stick’ is used to punish the boy (although this isn’t shown). This movie is set in the 80s, so this form of discipline wasn’t uncommon at the time.
- A husband and wife work in a hatchery, sexing chicks. The husband stands outside the hatchery with his son and they watch plumes of smoke rise from a chimney. The son asks what it is, and his father explains that it’s what happens to the male chicks because they’re useless. The implication is that the male chicks are being incinerated.
There are no sexual references in Minari.
Alcohol, drugs and other substances
Minari shows some use of substances. For example:
- Adults smoke cigarettes.
- Two young boys try chewing tobacco.
Nudity and sexual activity
Minari has some mild partial nudity. For example, the father is shown naked from the waist up, sitting in a bathtub. His wife sits behind him and washes his hair for him.
The following products are displayed or used in Minari: Mountain Dew.
Minari has some racist comments, coarse language and mild toilet humour. For example:
- A boy asks David why his face is ‘so flat’.
- A girl asks Anne if she can ‘talk in her language’ and then starts making stereotypical Asian language sounds. The girl doesn’t mean to be insulting and is showing a genuine interest in Anne’s language, but the scene shows the casual ignorance and racism that the family encounters every day.
- David tells his sister that his grandmother ‘smells like Korea’, but he doesn’t mean this in a good way.
- When she’s at church, the grandmother mutters about how fat Americans are.
- There are insults and name-calling, including ‘dumb’, ‘rascal, ‘selfish’, ‘bastards’, ‘stupid’ and ‘hillbilly’.
- There are some religious exclamations.
- There are some rude hand gestures.
- A grandmother teases her grandson about wetting the bed. She points to his crotch and says that he has a ‘broken penis’ and a ‘broken dingdong’.
- A boy urinates into a teacup and gives it to his grandmother to drink.
Ideas to discuss with your children
Minari is a tender, gentle and moving family drama, which shows how families can stick together through tough times. Although Minari is about a Korean family in America, the story is likely to resonate more broadly, because it’s also about the human desire to belong and prosper, as well as the longing for the familiarity of a home culture.
Minari is mostly in Korean with English subtitles so it will be hard for younger children to follow unless they’re confident readers. Also, the movie’s themes are more suited to older teenage or adult audiences.
These are the main messages from Minari:
- If families can stick together in tough times, they can pull through.
- Sometimes we must work hand in hand with nature rather than trying to bend it to our will.
Values in this movie that you could reinforce with your children include:
- the important and special role that grandparents can play in children’s lives
- a family’s ability to get through the tough times in life
- the benefits of working with nature
- the difference between doing what’s good for the community instead of what’s good for the individual.
This movie could also give you the chance to talk with your children about real-life issues like casual racism. In Minari, the family must put up with ignorant comments or observations about how they’re ‘different’ from Americans. Although these comments aren’t intentionally mean spirited, they’re insensitive and hurtful. You and your children could discuss how we can talk respectfully to and about people from diverse cultures.