When Yuh-Jung Youn appears in the film “Minari,” playing grandmother Soonja, her young grandson isn’t warm to her arrival. David, who has to share a room with her, tells her early on, “you’re not a real grandma.”
David, played by Alan Kim, rattles off how other grandmas are unlike Soonja: “They bake cookies! They don’t swear! They don’t wear men’s underwear!” Soonja, unphased, playfully kicks at David. That initial tension, however, starts to dissolve as Soonja forms a bond with her grandson. A throughline of “Minari” is Soonja’s love — like any grandmother’s love — for her family, even if it’s not always understood.
The film, written and directed by Lee Isaac Chung, follows the Yi family as they move to Arkansas’ Ozark Mountains in the 1980s. Youn, whose career has spanned more than five decades, said she drew from her own experiences as a grandmother for the film, but also built the character of Soonja by relying on memories of her own great-grandmother, who was alive until Youn was 10 years old.
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