Meewella | Critic

According to P

Tag: Emile Mosseri

QuickView: Minari (2020)

Minari poster

“You go ahead and do what you want. Even if I fail, I have to finish what I started.”


Lee Isaac Chung’s semi-autobiographical film about a Korean immigrant family setting up a farm in Arkansas is light on plot and heavy on character interaction, with the success of the farm itself less important than the fate of the family. The initial tension comes from Jacob’s decision to uproot a stable but stagnant life in California for risk that provides the possibility of growth and, although our initial impression of his wife Monica is unsupportive, the film is unusually even-handed in its portrayal of the couple. The arrival of grandmother Soonja seems like it will provide a one-note antagonistic presence, but she turns out to Minari‘s most multifaceted and fascinating character, portrayed expertly by Korean cinema veteran Yuh-Jung Youn as she shifts between childishly churlish and deeply caring. Steven Yeun, best known from The Walking Dead, is a nominal lead but this is really an ensemble cast, with the entire family being nuanced and fleshed out with sufficient screen time save for the daughter. Aside from half the dialogue being in Korean, there is little racial or cultural focus to Minari ⁠— perhaps its most universal immigrant experience is that the parents remain isolated, struggling to form deep relationships outside of the family unit, despite this particular Arkansas community being welcoming. As an amalgamation of Chung’s childhood memories, Minari may not show us anything particularly new but, in depicting the quiet struggle of industrious immigrants, it is both beautiful and timely in an environment of backlash to immigration.


QuickView: Kajillionaire (2020)

Kajillionaire poster

“Most people want to be Kajillionaires. That’s the dream. That’s how they get you hooked. Hooked on sugar. Hooked on caffeine.”


Miranda July’s offbeat fables feature oddball characters brushing against the harshness of the normal world, but with enough warmth and brightness to maintain a comedic atmosphere. Kajillionaire‘s focus is Old Dolio, a tragic figure in her mid-twenties, neglected by her petty criminal parents so that she is uncomfortable with human connection or affection, much as she craves it. Evan Rachel Woods appears strikingly like a young Jason Mewes, from her hair and wardrobe to a wiry physical performance as she contorts herself to avoid the gaze of cameras and people. The film is slow to make its intentions apparent, with her parents’ decision to bring an outsider into the team first suggesting a jealous rivalry, though gradually we see that it forces Old Dolio to reckon with her own familial relationship. A memorable scene features the group acting out regular family life in a stranger’s home, which July plays for light comedy whilst also also making us aware that this easy charade is unfamiliar to Old Dolio and painful to pretend. Kajillionaire meanders a little too much but a strong closing scene provides a pleasing resolution.


"A film is a petrified fountain of thought."

(CC) BY-NC 2003-2023 Priyan Meewella

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