In Praise of Minari and A24

The week before I left for the winter semester at Bates, when the prospect of arrival quarantine still loomed, I came across a link detailing the screening of “Minari” on A24. I had heard of neither the film nor the platform, but I was desperately searching for something to look forward to while quarantining alone on campus. I sent a quick text to friends asking if anyone wanted to get tickets and watch together (remotely), and then reserved tickets for a screening the following Monday.

Several minutes later, a friend alerted me to the fact that my ticket was for 7 p.m. on the first Monday of classes, not a quiet Monday evening during the final stretch of quarantine. I vaguely dreaded the plan but put it on my iCal, not willing to waste the cost of the ticket even though I knew I would be stressed about homework, class, and meetings by the time the screening rolled around.

There’s something indulgent about making concrete plans on a Monday night and shelling out $20 for a virtual event. However, both of these indulgences are worthwhile to create an escape from the predominant viewing culture of the past couple years; I have become accustomed to starting movies on Netflix, no thought to the creator or the cultural relevance of the film, or even whether or not I will finish the movie. The plethora of streaming sites have created a culture where viewers exchange $8.99 a month for the ability to be entertained by an endless stream of rom coms and original content whenever they want.

A24 and “Minari” offer something different. The cost is steep, but viewers are able to support the creators and actors behind their screens. Each viewer is emailed a link that is available beginning from a designated time and ending four hours later. Tickets actually sell out, adding a layer of exclusivity and planning that does not exist on typical streaming sites. 

After clicking the link for “Minari” a little after 7 p.m. last Monday, I was greeted by a welcome video hosted by Alan S. Kim, the 8-year-old actor who plays David, the adorable star of the film. After introducing the cast – and presumably making everyone at home go “aww!” – Kim fades out and the movie begins. 

Set in the 1980s, “Minari” tells the story of a Korean family who moves from California to Arkansas in order to help Jacob, David’s father and the patriarch of the family, fulfill his dream of building a farm. There is conflict from the outset, as the parents quarrel and spend their days working in order to support the farm, which at this point is reduced to a plot of land without tractors or water. 

Eventually David’s maternal grandmother arrives from Korea to live with the family. Although this relationship is rocky at first – David, who has spent the bulk of his life in California, balks at his grandmother’s unusual habits and Korean gifts – the pair develop a bond that offers solace from the tensions of the rest of the family. 

The film is riddled with other intricacies and plot points, but ultimately, it is a beautiful story of a family reconciling their relationships with each other as well as the cultural tension between their pasts in Korea and their futures on American soil. 

“Minari” is special for many reasons. The movie takes its time, preferring tactical cinematography and quiet indie music over the attention-grabbing style prevalent in other contemporary films. The plot highlights the experiences of Korean immigrants, stories that have historically been excluded from mainstream viewership. In fact, the movie won best foreign-language film in the Golden Globes; although, this award was not without controversy, considering that the movie was filmed in the United States.

Although the price tag and non-refundable nature of A24 may be difficult to accept, I recommend taking the time to try. “Minari,” and the experience overall, provide a sweetness and calm to the otherwise hectic nature of attending college during a pandemic.