Love feels like it is limited and conditional, but sometimes it is not. The love that Korean-American director Lee Isaac Chung shows in “Minari” is exceptional. It is just an ordinary film in its genre. Stories of immigrants are common in the U.S., a country of immigrants. What makes this film extraordinary is a grandmother who lives in a country where everything is unfamiliar.
There is an important scene in the film although it can be easily missed out. It is an happening on the bed. A young grandson says to his grandmother who he was sharing a room with, “I don’t want to die.” The boy finishes praying since his mother tells him that he has to pray if he wants to go to heaven. He seems to have been scared of death because he has a bed-wetting problem and is waiting for a heart surgery. The grandmother cuddles the boy after listening to what he says. “It’s okay. I am not gonna let you die,” she says and puts him to sleep.
But a startling event happens in the morning. The grandmother wetted her bed. It turns out to be a stroke. It seems coincidental that the grandson’s bed-wetting is replaced with her stoke. But it may reflect her unconsciousness to take over her grandson’s illness. Perhaps, love is a willingness to give, not just on a conscious level, but also on an unconscious level. It was thanks to the power of love that the grandson became healthier enough to skip the heart surgery. It was also thanks to the grandmother’s love that her daughter and son-in-law did not divorce in the hardships that life as immigrants sends their way.
In Korea’s history, there have been numerous mothers and grandmothers who gave everything to their children. “Minari” is a tribute to them. The director magically put the grandmothers at the center of the story, who have never been at the center in history. This is the reason why the film is heartwarming.