Actor Han Ye-ri says ‘Minari’ did not take the easy way

By Song Seung-hyun

Focusing on her character’s reactions to what was going on in the story, Han says she had no difficulty playing an immigrant mother

  • Published : Feb 24, 2021 - 16:29
  • Updated : Feb 24, 2021 - 16:29

Han Ye-ri (Pan Cinema)

South Korean actor Han Ye-ri said she feels a bit nervous hearing Korean audiences’ response to her upcoming US film “Minari” as it does not have a clear plot sequence consisting of a beginning, a middle and an end.

“This movie did not take the easy way of making a provocative story,” Han told reporters during a joint media interview on Tuesday, conducted via Zoom due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Rather, “Minari” calmly presents a universal and relatable topic, she said.

“Minari,” directed by Korean American Lee Isaac Chung, depicts the story of an immigrant family of four from Korea that settles in the US. In the movie, Jacob (Steven Yeun) and Monica (Han Ye-ri) move to rural Arkansas with their two kids to pursue their version of the American dream.

Earlier this month, the film was nominated to compete in the Golden Globes’ best foreign-language film category. Also, as “Minari” has won multiple prizes in the US, hopes are high that the movie and its stars may get an Oscar nod.

During the interview, Han talked about her first impression upon meeting Chung.

“When I first received the roughly translated script, to be honest, it was difficult to fully understand Monica,” Han said. “Then I met Isaac and we told each other stories of our own grandmothers. And I was surprised to find out that we have similar memories.”

Han added that this connection that she felt during the first meeting with Chung convinced her that she would be able to understand her character in “Minari.”

Although she does not have any experience of immigration or being a mother, Han explained that she did not have issues playing Monica.

“I just tried to perform Monica’s true reaction to what is going on in the story. Also, the kids were very friendly and called me mom Monica on set, which was helpful,” Han said. “(When playing my role) I focused on the reason why it is important to Monica that her family stays together. I think it all began with love.”

Since the movie is about a Korean immigrant family, “Minari” shows Korean culture -- 1980s Korean culture in particular.

“There were the old fashioned kettle and mirror, and the videotapes,” Han said. “Also, there is a scene where Monica lines drawer bottoms with pages from a large calendar before putting in her mom’s clothes. That was so Korean and I really liked it.”

Han also added that it was her idea for Monica and Jacob to call each other “Anne’s appa” (Korean for Anne’s dad) and “Anne’s eomma” (Korean for Anne’s mom).

“I remembered that was how my parents and people from my parents’ generation used to call each other using their first kid’s name,” Han said. She added that there is one special scene where the two call their spouses “yeobo,” a Korean term of endearment that husbands and wives use.

Asked about her experience of singing “Rain Song,” the lullaby-like song that is played when the movie’s ending credits roll up, Han said she loved it. 

Han Ye-ri (Pan Cinema)

“The director asked me to sing it in Korean and sing it as if Monica were singing it to her son, David. I was excited to be part of this,” Han said.

Han added that she had not expected the song to be shortlisted for a music category at the upcoming Academy Awards and was happy to hear the news.

“Minari” will hit local theaters March 3.

By Song Seung-hyun (ssh@heraldcorp.com)