Minari is an excellent movie, but I’m going to be upfront and honest with you: There’s only, like, one car in it. I’m writing this because I dropped $20 on a digital ticket and I want to get some SEO.
At its core, “Minari” is a straightforward and exceedingly honest movie about a Korean-American immigrant family that moves from Los Angeles to Arkansas. Jacob Yi, the patriarch played by Yeun, grows tired of his work as a chicken sexer, a job that mostly entails taking baskets of newborn chicks and sorting them by gender. He wants to start a big farm that will supply produce to the thousands of Koreans who are immigrating to the United States. Jacob’s wife, Monica, played by Yeri Han, has reservations about her husband’s ambitions, but she goes along as he sows, irrigates and plows a cursed plot of land.
I went into Minari expecting a sympathetic autobiography-via-biography of immigrant parents. The director, Lee Isaac Chung, is somewhat represented in the film as the young boy in the family, the parents are to some extent his parents, noted by Kang:
“Minari” is loosely autobiographical, as most quiet immigrant films are. The director, Lee Isaac Chung, grew up in Arkansas, where his parents worked as chicken sexers. But Chung wanted to avoid projecting the child’s gaze onto his parents. While the film stars a young boy named David, played by Alan Kim and presumably modeled on Chung, his film mostly seems unconcerned with his childhood perspective and how he feels about his place in the rural South. This was intentional. “I felt like I needed to get it away from the memoir and autobiography space,” Chung told me.
I was intrigued because my own dad wrote a biography/autobiography of his immigrant parents after his father’s (my grandfather’s) death. I pressed play on the digital screening, a fresh bowl of popcorn beside me, and I might have somewhat eagerly yelled “TIME TO CRY” into the apartment. I got what I was coming for, and also at least one cool car! The Minari family arrives on screen and into Arkansas in a wonderful 1980s GM station wagon. You can see it right at the start of the trailer, as well:
(I should say that while I believe in my heart this is an Oldsmobile, for some reason I can’t find any matching grilles online to ID a specific year and I forgot to screenshot any badging during my viewing slot.)
This is a classic rear-wheel-drive station wagon of the pre-SUV era, from when the minivan was starting to get traction in the market place. It is large. It is crude. It is a large box in which a family resides. There are no illusions of sportiness present, just rather plain practicality. The Minari family wagon is a little beat up, but the indestructible maroon interior remains sturdy.
You could argue that there were at least three or four other vehicles of interest, including the Mahindra tractor the family blows a large sum of money on, a friend’s GMC pickup that appears in the trailer but I can’t remember from the movie, and even the Minari family home. It has wheels, after all.