QZ qz thoughts
a blog from Eli the Bearded


First a note on watching this. A24 has a "screening room" to buy streaming access to this. They mention you can watch it via Roku, but what they really mean is you can (with certain Roku models) stream it from a computer to the Roku. You'll still need the computer to stream it. Rather than stream it twice wirelessly (once to computer, once from computer to Roku), we used an HDMI connection to my wife's Mac.

The other thing about the streaming access that stands out as "needed more explaination" is the times. When you buy access to this it comes at a particular date and time. Turns out that particular time is the start of a multihour (five? six?) window to watch it.

And a minor note. The video stream has customer identifying watermark that jumps around. It sticks to the very edge of the screen but moves up / down and switches sides. This was distracting at first but eventually ignorable.

On to the film.

This is an autobiographical story of the director's childhood, focusing on the first year of living in rural Arkansas with his Korean immigrant parents, and later his maternal grandmother, moved in to both care for her and provide some child care.

It is very striking that it avoids pretty much all of the cliches of a foriegner story. There's essentially no racism, no white savior, no special Asian wisdom to save the day. It's a story of people with conflicting desires, health problems, and farm troubles. The meanest line in the film is from a local teen directed at a local old man, overheard by the immigrant kids. There is a bit of a running joke about misundertanding that Mountain Dew is not some sort of natural mountain stream water.

Much is made of the boy's "cuteness" in accompanying commentary. The boy is the young director, and given a lot of significance in the story, but to me it was the grandmother who was the most interesting character. Her fascination with professional wrestling on TV, for example, was quite funny.

It's a slice of life film, and as typical for those, a little slow. But I didn't regret a moment of it. Call it a tad better than three amateur exorcisms out of four.

I watched the interview with the cast special feature afterwards. I felt that was largely a waste of my time. The title refers to one of the plants grown (this is clear in the movie), but Lee Isaac Chung (director) notes this was the rare plant that ultimately did well at the farm.

Minari at imdb