Minari is the tale of an immigrant family inching towards the American dream. Here are seven movies on immigrants that explore various facets of leaving one’s homeland behind
Harshita Alok Sharma
Last Updated: 06.30 PM, May 12, 2021
Minari, a semi-biographical story directed by Lee Isaac Chung, depicts the overwhelming sense of isolation and loneliness that immigrant families feel. Minari’s Li family are in a foreign land, disconnected from their roots in South Korea and struggling to adapt to a culture that is starkly different from theirs. The homesickness that pervades all characters has struck a chord with immigrants all across the globe, who could not help but well up with the truthfulness behind the concept of Minari.
The need to make ends meet, the importance of getting accepted in a new community and the longing to return back to a forgotten homeland are all too familiar for immigrants. If this aspect of Minari touched you, here are seven movies and shows about immigrant families that you should watch.
Based on Jhumpa Lahiri’s novel of the same name, this Mira Nair movie explores the plight of the Indian diaspora. When Ashoke (Irrfan Khan) and Ashima (Tabu) migrate from West Bengal to New York, they experience the trials and tribulations of being strangers in a nation that is not used to them. They struggle to find acceptance and find jarring gaps in their culture in contrast to America’s modernity. Directed by Mira Nair, the film highlights how heart wrenching it is for immigrants to only have memories of their homeland and nothing tangible.
Kumail Nanjiani’s The Big Sick is the most real rom-com out there. It follows the love story of a Pakistani American stand-up comedian and a liberal American girl. Kumail plays the former, who faces racist comments at his shows and is unable to convince his traditionally Pakistani parents to accept his girlfriend. They want him to marry a Pakistani girl, which is twice as important to them - they feel like they have nothing connecting them to their country anymore. Kumail marrying an American girl will be the last straw of losing their identity.
The title says it all in this film about an undocumented immigrant gardner who strives to provide for his son. Directed by Chris Weitz, A Better Life elaborates on the constant fear undocumented immigrants live in, hoping that they are not discovered. When the main character starts facing discrimation and violence, the American dream seems to be far from reality.
Ten episodes of Mindy Kaling’s Never Have I Ever shed light on the duality of being the child of immigrants who are passionately trying to hold on to their culture. Maitreyi Ramakrishnan plays the role of Devi, a teenager who desperately wants to shed her brown skin and fit into the mould of a typical American highschooler but is unable to, since her mother is as traditional as it gets. Over time, Devi realises that her roots are as important as her learnings in America.
John Crowley’s Brooklyn features Saoirse Ronan as Eilis Lacy, a young Irish immigrant who uproots her life to travel to the United States in hope of finding economic opportunities. The film portrays the struggles of a lower-middle class woman trying to fit into the social status and reputation that building a good life for herself in the US demands. When she moves back to Ireland, even after never having achieved great things in the US, she realises that she is valued more for having moved out from her community.
Remi Weekes’ His House is the harrowing story of a refugee couple from war-torn South Sudan who lost their daughter while escaping. When they arrive in the UK, they’re given accommodation and allowed to be free citizens. The husband is overjoyed and starts to settle into his new life, but the wife finds herself ridden in guilt over having left her fate behind. His House, though a supernatural horror film, paints the picture of an immigrant couple that is fearing deportation for not being ideal refugees while facing their own personal struggles.
Five seasons of Fresh Off The Boat are an absolute delight to watch. The series follows an immigrant Taiwanese family that is settling into American culture and finding their own space in the economic sphere. Filled with light hearted moments and humour, the show also tackles more important issues of homesickness, the need for immigrant children to excel in order to be taken seriously and casual racism that is rife in American communities.