In the 1983, the Korean immigrant Yi family moves from California to their new plot of land in rural Arkansas, where father Jacob hopes to grow Korean produce to sell to vendors in Dallas. One of his first decisions is to decline the services of a water diviner and he digs a well in a spot he finds on his own. He enlists the help of Paul, an eccentric local man, and Korean War veteran. While Jacob is optimistic about the life ahead, his wife Monica is disappointed and worries about their son David’s heart condition; due to this he is frequently told not to run. Jacob and Monica work sexing chicks at the nearby hatchery and argue constantly while David and his sister Anne eavesdrop.
To help watch the kids during the day, they arrange for Monica’s mother Soon-ja to travel from South Korea. David, who is forced to share a room with her, avoids her because she does not conform to his idea of how a grandmother should be. Still, Soon-ja attempts to adjust to life in the States and bond with the children.
The well that Jacob dug runs dry. Jacob is reluctant to pay for county water, but eventually is forced to do so. He runs into additional difficulties, such as the vendor in Dallas cancelling their order at the last minute. Even so, he perseveres despite Monica’s vocal desire to return to California. This strains their marriage closer to breaking point.
Meanwhile, Soon-ja takes the children to plant minari seeds by the creek. She tells them how resilient and useful the plant is, and predicts plentiful growth. David finally begins to warm to his grandmother after she teaches him card games, bandages his wounds, and soothes him to sleep. Soon-ja also encourages him to do more physical activity, something his parents discourage, saying that he is stronger than they think.
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