Based on a semi-autobiographical shot in the life of director Lee Issac Chung, Threatening tells the story of a South Korean immigrant family trying to make life work in the Arkansas Ozarks. The 2020 American drama attracted many people’s attention, so much so that it was nominated for countless awards at the 93rd Academy Awards, and Youn Yuh-Jung won Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role. It was also nominated for the SAG Awards and won the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film.
The film is the story of an immigrant family never before told on the big screen, and its story and main characters will fill any viewer’s heart with excitement. Set in the 1980s, Threatening It is an unmissable film that deserves the recognition of Hollywood and the world public.
The cinematography and images in the film are spectacular. Since the movie is set in Arkansas, there are a lot of shots of open landscapes and nature. In the movie, Jacob Yi (Steven Yeun) buys a house on wheels parked on acres of open land, hoping to turn his dream of owning a farm into reality.
The public gets to see the awe of what the landscape has to offer with its images. For example, there is the bright sun sweeping the grass while pollen and tiny insects litter the air, not to mention images of a young David (Alan Kim) walking through its vastness.
9 The story of the immigrant
The basis of the film’s story is one that many will resonate with, but viewed from a different perspective. Jacob and his wife were born in Korea and made the decision to start a new life in America. After spending years in California sexing chickens, Jacob convinces his wife and family to move to Arkansas.
Jacob has a deep desire to live his “American Dream” and show his children that he can be successful at something. The story is both poignant and heartbreaking as Jacob faces many setbacks in making a successful harvest and securing suppliers. At the same time, he struggles to keep his family together. The different dynamics that come into play with Korean parents living in the United States with two American-born children are intertwined.
8 Jacob’s internal turmoil as a father and his dream
Audiences will see the inner struggle of all the main characters, especially Jacob. Jacob is hell-bent on his American dream of owning his own farm to the point where he begins to lose sight of his family. They move into a house on wheels on newly purchased land, but his wife, Monica (Han Ye-Ri), worries that they are too far from a hospital in case their son David’s heart condition worsens.
As the movie progresses, David is at odds between providing for his family or using everything he has to make the harvest work. On one occasion, he even emphasizes that the farm is his highest priority.
7 Struggles of a frayed marriage
From the beginning, the public is aware that Jacob and Monica are going through a difficult time in their marriage. Monica is not one hundred percent convinced of Jacob’s dream, but she tries for his own good. As time passes, Monica becomes more cautious about her future, as Jacob puts everything the family has on the farm.
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His current situation generates more and more fights that take their toll. Threatening tells the reality of a marriage that is held together by a thread. Fans can’t help but sympathize with Monica as she feels isolated in a new place while taking care of her family.
6 Funny dialogue and happy moments
Between the emotional story and reality, there are still moments of comedy and joy that fans can’t help but laugh at and are a necessary break from the tense reality facing the family. There is even a time when David does the unthinkable and tricks his grandmother into drinking urine. When David receives his punishment, they ask him to get a stick and he returns with a small piece of grass.
What makes the movie so realistic is that it doesn’t shy away from the use of subtitles. Jacob and his wife often speak Korean while mixing English, since their children were born in the United States. The film is also praised for its dialogue, as it can be simplistic but resonant. David’s line of “Grandma smells like Korea” is comical but has a deeper meaning to the story.
5 Lost home and cementing Korean culture
There are a number of Korean cultural aspects that Threatening it relates to the larger picture of an immigrant family in the Ozarks. The characters attempt to showcase Korean culture in America through Jacob’s desire to plant Korean vegetables and take advantage of the growing number of Korean residents in Arkansas.
At the same time, the film embarks on the emotions of missing home and what it means. When Monica’s mother Soonja (Youn Yuh-Joung) arrives from Korea, she brings some gifts, such as gochugaru (powdered red pepper) and anchovies. Monica is so distraught about losing her home and so happy to receive food ingredients that are hard to find where she lives, that she begins to cry.
4 Minari symbolism
Some non-Koreans may not understand the symbolism behind Soonja planting minari next to a small stream in the forest. Minari is a type of vegetable or watercress that has a herbal flavor and can be compared to slightly bitter parsley. The plant is used in a variety of Korean dishes.
Soonja finds a small river and decides to plant minari there, knowing that it will grow well. But the minari has a much deeper meaning. The plant is known to grow abundantly after dying in the first season. This speaks volumes about the struggles of Jacob and his family and also their link to Soonja’s story.
3 David’s own story through his eyes
The film is told through the eyes of David, the youngest child who is under constant surveillance due to his heart murmur. He has his own assimilation story as he was born in America, but with Korean immigrant parents and audiences they see his struggle to be pulled between these two cultures.
David and his sister often speak English, but they are more than capable of fluent Korean. Throughout the film, audiences see his ties to a more American way of life, such as David’s obsession with Mountain Dew. Soonja also makes David a special Korean herbal medicine that he refuses to drink. Not to mention that there is a weight on David’s shoulders, knowing how much his illness affects his parents and how he cannot run, even if he wants to.
two David and Soonja’s evolving relationship
What could steal the show from many viewers is the relationship between David and Soonja. Soonja comes to the United States to help with the children and creates a unique bond with David. Some American-born viewers may remember the first time they met a relative from their parents’ home country.
There is a confrontation between David and his grandmother, as David does not see her as the type of grandmother he knows, that is, the stereotypical American-born grandmother. David often tells her that she is not a real grandmother because she wears menswear, curses, and does not bake cookies. She even complains that she smells like Korea, but along the way, they find a middle ground when David comes to love her.
1 Soonja’s story
Soonja’s story in Threatening resonated so well that actor Youn Yuh-Jung won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, becoming the first Korean actor to win in the category. She plays a major role in the family story arc that leaves fans in tears. She is not a typical grandmother, neither by Korean nor American standards, as she is not a stereotypical grandmother and prefers to curse, drink Mountain Dew, and watch wrestling.
But she becomes a fundamental character, since she is the only one who sees David as a “strong boy”. After a bit of struggle, he forms a bond with his grandson and calms his inner fear of not wanting to see the sky. Plant the minari seeds by the stream, knowing that they will grow fruitfully. In the end, Soonja means a new beginning for David and his family.
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