The cast of “Minari,” about a Korean family hoping to achieve the American dream in the Ozarks circa the 1980s, spoke about the way the film’s “deep humanity” and authenticity allows it to be universally appreciated.
“I think what really dominates the relationship amongst this family is love,” said star Yeri Han via translator. “And I think that’s why the story managed to touch so many people’s hearts.”
Steven Yeun, Han and Yuh-jung Youn spoke with deputy awards and features editor Jenelle Riley about how they joined Lee Isaac Chung’s fourth feature at the Variety Screening Series presented by the all-new Toyota Mirai. The cast received an ensemble SAG Award nomination and both Yeun and Youn were individually nominated, as well. Yeun, who portrays patriarch Jacob; Han, who plays matriarch Monica and Youn, who plays the loving and unconventional grandmother Soonja, delved into cast dynamics and the resonance of the movie.
“[Isaac] did such a wonderful job of casting this film,” Yeun said. “He really created a great set of people that, I think, all were really perfect for each role and the dynamics … We had a week or two to get to know each other, but we jelled pretty quickly.” He added that Alan S. Kim (who plays his son David) and Noel Cho (who plays his daughter Anne) brought a “purity and non-self-consciousness” on set that helped the cast feel like a family.
The panelists said they instantly felt connected to the narrative’s authenticity when they were first introduced to Chung’s script.
“My friend, she gave me the script,” Youn said. “So, I tried to read it and then it’s very realistic to me. So, during the reading, I called Inna, ‘Is it real story from him?’ Then she said, ‘Yes.’ So, I told her, ‘OK, I will do it.’”
Han, who had never worked on an American project before, said she was initially nervous when she arrived on set but quickly adapted to the production once she grew familiar with its processes, as well as her co-stars.
“Honestly, I’m just grateful to have these memories that I will carry with me for a very long time,” Han’s translator said. “These memories that I can share with Yuh-jung, Steven, and Isaac — people who I admire so much.”
While the film focuses on a Korean family, Yeun said its themes resonate beyond the bounds of culture or time. “I think you could call it a Korean family making it in America, but truly this is maybe one of the most American films I’ve ever seen. This is the story about not necessarily Korean people in America, I think on the surface it can be seen that way, but it’s really the story about these immigrants in this place that occupy this space in time, and I think it reflects back to a deep humanity that I think most Americans can understand.”