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There are a lot of ways in which movies can surprise us. Sometimes it is subtle – a film is funnier or more dramatic than we expected. Sometimes, it’s a little more overt – a stunt cast cameo or a third act twist. But the vast majority of these surprises involve what a movie is.

But what about when the surprise springs from what a movie isn’t?

That’s what I got when I finally, after spending a full year hearing about its excellence from various trusted sources since its debut at Sundance in January of 2020, got to watch “Minari,” the brilliant film written and directed by Lee Isaac Cheung. Now, these sources who sung the film’s praises steered clear of spoilers – what I heard was that it was great, not why it was great.

We all have our biases, conscious and otherwise. And when I heard that “Minari” centered around a Korean family moving to Arkansas in the 1980s, I made some assumptions about what the film would be about, assumptions that involved othering born of the racist attitudes of that place and time.

Instead, what I got was a moving family drama, a film that explored the complexities that come with being bound by blood and how cultural expectations can challenge the choices people make. It is a film about love and obligation, of the responsibilities and burdens we bear toward those who matter most to us. It is about differences, yes, but also acceptance, all in service of trying to do right by the ones who mean the most to us.

Published in Movies

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