Lectures For Lifelong Learners!

“The Father” and “Raya and the Last Dragon” are also new to Blu-Ray this week.


There are some jobs that on some level I know exist, but never really thought about. Take for example that of a chicken sexer. It’s exactly what it sounds like. A person is paid to sort through trays of newly hatched chicks to determine which are male and which are female, then separate accordingly.

This is the occupation of Korean immigrants Jacob (Steven Yeun) and Monica (Yeri Han) in “Minari.” It is not, however, their dream life. Jacob moves his family from California to then-governor Bubba Clinton’s Arkansas of the 1980s, where he’s bought a patch of land based on the color of the dirt. His dream is to capitalize—as any entrepreneur with any sense would do in a capitalist country—on the recent influx of fellow immigrants to the area. His idea is to grow Korean vegetables on his farm and sell them to local Korean grocers to give his arriving countrymen a taste of home.

That’s the dream. The reality is something else entirely. Monica is embarrassed by her new surroundings and has a hard time seeing the same vision as Jacob. This leads the couple careening ever so steadily toward some major issues and their fair share of blow ups. Caught in the middle of the crossfire is adolescent daughter Anne (Noel Kate Cho) and her younger brother David (Alan Kim). David has a heart condition and needs constant care and attention that his mother and sister cannot provide.

In comes Monica’s mother Soonja (recently crowned Best Supporting Actress winner Yuh-jung Youn) to assist. Her relationship with David parallels that of Jacob and Monica’s, but in the opposite direction. As Jacob and Monica drift further apart and issues arise in their relationship, David and Soonja resolve their differences and grow to care for one another. The crux of this scenario is a scene in which Jacob wants to physically punish David for giving his grandmother some Mountain Dew that had the same color but definitely was not Mountain Dew. Soonja stands up on his behalf and asks for mercy, though she was the victim of a fairly disgusting prank. If that doesn’t connote a big heart full of forgiveness and reconciliation, I don’t know what does.

“Minari” gets its title from the herbs that Soonja plants next to a stream near their property. It’s here where she dispenses valuable advice to young David, like how it’s better to see a snake out in the open and know where it’s at than to scare it away and have it surprise you later. It’s a good metaphor, and so are the minari plants themselves. They’re essentially a Korean parsley, but they represent so much more than something tasty. These plants are adaptable and can thrive almost anywhere. Once harvested, their uses are multitudinous and can be used to enhance the flavor of many dishes.

I think of the family in “Minari” the same way. The come from Korea, they adapt, they grow, and they don’t let any setback, no matter how catastrophic, stand in their way. They serve as proof that the adage is true: People born in the U.S. take it too much for granted. The ones who truly appreciate this country and what it has to offer are its immigrants. Buy it.

Also New This Week

The Father

Anthony Hopkins very much earned his second career Best Actor Oscar (the first was for “The Silence of the Lambs”) for his role as a mentally ailing pensioner named Anthony in “The Father,” which also took home a prize for Best Adapted screenplay. This is a raw, emotionally resonant, heartfelt, unflinching look at life for a dementia sufferer through his eyes. We see how the disease impacts not only him, but also those around him like daughter Anne (Olivia Colman), who struggles to find the right care for him. His obstinance and rudeness toward caregivers doesn’t help matters.

“The Father” paints a painfully accurate portrait of the frustrations in dealing with an aging parent who is losing his memory and sense of what’s real, and what it’s like to try to find the balance between taking care of him and living a life of one’s own. Tough choices are required. If “The Father” can be faulted for anything, it’s that Anthony is more clever and articulate than a typical person in his stage of dementia, but such a thing is easily forgiven for characters and dialogue so artfully written.

I strongly recommend this movie to everyone, and in particular to those with loved ones suffering from memory issues. At the movie’s end, I ask you to posit this analysis to yourself: If you feel flustered, confused, and lost by what you’ve just seen, then imagine how Anthony feels. Buy it.

Raya and the Last Dragon

Are the daughters of chiefs princesses? As mentioned in “Raya and the Last Dragon,” they’re princess-like, but do they officially count as princesses? I guess a debate could be had over this subject, but if they are, then Raya (voice of Kelly Marie Tran), daughter of Benja (voice of Daniel Dae Kim), is yet another in a long line of Disney princesses. I’ll know when Disney has it out for me personally the day they release a movie about a prince who lives with his single parent mother, the queen. I’m pretty sure the shock of such a thing from Disney would put me into a coma.

The plot of “Raya” is an odyssey as she ventures from place to place in her home country of Kumandra to collect pieces of a gem that can be used to defeat the evil terrorizing the land. She collects a merry band of misfits as she journeys, most entertaining of which is dragon Sisu (voice of Awkwafina), who helps make what is pretty standard fare be more entertaining than it otherwise would be. Just don’t think too much about story details like why other dragons are still stone if the original gem rid the land of the evil 500 years ago and brought everyone back to life. Instead, enjoy the varied animation styles, get caught up in the fast-paced action, and have a good time. Rent it.

More New Releases

“Tom & Jerry,” adaption of the classic Hanna-Barbera cartoon, which reveals how Tom and Jerry first meet and formed their rivalry, starring Chloë Grace Moretz and Michael Peña; and “The Nest,” in which life for an entrepreneur and his American family begin to take a twisted turn after moving into a English country manor, starring Jude Law, Carrie Coon, and Anne Reid.

Andrew Hudak is a lifelong film lover. His column on Blu-Ray new releases appears every Tuesday. He lives in Connecticut.