Soundtrack Review: Minari (2020)

Milan Records released on February 12 the Minari (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) with music by award-winning composer Emile Mosseri (The Last Black Man in San Francisco, Kajillionaire). Available everywhere now, the album features score music written by Mosseri for director Lee Isaac Chung’s family drama.

Minari follows a Korean-American family that moves to an Arkansas farm in search of their own American Dream. The family home changes completely with the arrival of their sly, foul-mouthed, but incredibly loving grandmother. Amidst the instability and challenges of this new life in the rugged Ozarks, Minari shows the undeniable resilience of family and what really makes a home.

Emile Mosseri is an award-winning composer, pianist, singer and producer who has quickly made a name for himself in the world of film music with his song-based approach to crafting emotionally-stirring compositions. Mosseri made his feature film score debut with Sundance standout The Last Black Man in San Francisco (2019), garnering extensive critical acclaim from LA Times, Pitchfork, Entertainment Weekly and more.  A breakout moment for the young composer, the sweepingly romantic score cemented Mosseri as a sought-after collaborator, next joining director Miranda July for her comedic crime drama Kajillionaire (2020).

Of the soundtrack, composer Emile Mosseri had the following to say:

“Working with Lee Isaac Chung on Minari was the purest collaboration. Isaac made a gorgeous film about his childhood, and it was an exciting challenge to try and musically personify something as visceral and emotionally-loaded as childhood memory. He invited me into his filmmaking process at the script stage which was a first for me and a dream. I’m grateful that my music found a home in his profoundly honest, vulnerable and deeply poetic film.”

“In July of 2019, five days before production began on Minari, Emile sent me musical sketches for the score,” adds Minari director Lee Isaac Chung. “He wrote, ‘I like the idea of the score having a warm beating heart but also some dissonance and struggle, dipping between those two worlds seamlessly.’ As I listened to the pieces, I was in awe of how he had captured this poetic intent perfectly. From the start, his music contained all the things I hoped for in the film: warmth, heart, dissonance, and struggle. I listened to the songs so often during production that the world of the film contains the songs, and the world of the songs contains the film. As you listen to his brilliant score, you will, in his words, be dipping between those two worlds seamlessly.”

I’ve heard a lot about Minari from my fellow critics on Twitter, but I wasn’t sure what to expect from the soundtrack as, to my shame, I haven’t seen The Last Black Man in San Francisco or Kajillionaire. As a result, I haven’t heard any of Mosseri’s music before, so this was my first time hearing anything he composed.

To my delight, the music for Minari is deeply touching and rich. The story is set in the Ozarks, deep in the heart of America and it shows in this beautiful music. Unlike other soundtracks I’ve heard this year, Mosseri’s music for Minari seems largely content to just “be” and serve as a backdrop for what’s happening in the story. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this either. More than once I’ve heard a soundtrack that has too much going on and distracts me from the story (or worse, is better than the story itself). It’s a great change of pace to have music that’s so tranquil and slower-paced. It reminded me more than once of a deep river: it appears smooth and quiet, but it’s hiding a lot going on underneath (not a bad metaphor for the film itself given my understanding of the plot).

My particular favorites from this soundtrack are Big Country and Garden of Eden. Both, particularly Garden of Eden, gave me the strong impression of the wilderness and untamed nature. The music flows all around you, giving no hints as to where it takes place in the film. That’s another thing I like, unlike some soundtracks where you can pretty much follow the film through the music (The Invisible Man was one example of this), Minari gives no such hints. Instead we’re treated to an almost concert-like string of music that I took great pleasure in listening to.

MINARI (ORIGINAL MOTION PICTURE SOUNDTRACK)
TRACKLISTING –

  1. Intro
  2. Jacob and The Stone
  3. Big Country
  4. Garden of Eden
  5. Rain Song (feat. Han Ye-ri)
  6. Grandma Picked A Good Spot
  7. Halmeoni
  8. Jacobs Prayer
  9. Wind Song (feat. Han Ye-ri)
  10. Bird Slingers
  11. Oklahoma City
  12. Minari Suite
  13. You’ll Be Happy
  14. Paul’s Antiphony
  15. Find It Every Time
  16. Outro

The Minari soundtrack is available now from Milan Records, and I highly recommend purchasing it and checking it out.

Let me know what you think about Minari (and its soundtrack) in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Film Soundtracks A-W

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