How Grandma Soonja’s Fire Accident Changes Everything in Minari’s Ending

The ending of Minari is poetic yet confusing, as it leaves the fate of Soonja quite ambiguous. The 2017 indie drama by A24 features Steven Yeun as Jacob, an aspiring farmer who faces many challenges after relocating his family from California to Arkansas to pursue his agricultural venture. 

With time, Jacob’s wife Monica starts doubting Jacob’s ability to support their family of two children, Anne and David. Academy Award winner Youn Yuh-jung portrays Monica’s mother, Grandma Soonja, who joins the family in Arkansas. 

Soonja travels from Korea to reconnect with her daughter and bond with her grandchildren. David is initially not thrilled by Soonja living with them. He plays nasty tricks on her, including making her drink urine.  

However, Soonja becomes a friend and guide to the rebellious David, whose relationship with his grandmother reflects the broader themes of generational and cultural tensions in Minari.

1. Minari Ending Explained

In the climax of Minari, Grandma Soonja’s health deteriorates drastically due to a stroke that leaves her partially physically paralyzed. Soonja had formed a close bond with David, who enjoyed her lively and playful company. 

How Grandma Soonja’s Fire Accident Changes Everything in Minari’s Ending
Minari | Source: IMDb

Meanwhile, Monica faces new hardships in her family life, while Jacob becomes more focused on his farming goals. David’s heart condition improves significantly, and Jacob secures his first sale in Arkansas. Despite these positive developments, Monica loses her trust in Jacob.

In the final scene, the couple return from Jacob’s sale, and Monica detects smoke in the car. Jacob hurries home to find his storage shed on fire. He runs into the shed and rescues as many vegetable boxes as possible, followed by Monica. 

It is revealed that Soonja accidentally started the fire when she tried to burn some trash while she was alone. Soonja walks away in guilt but is brought back home by David and Anne. The family sleeps together on the living room floor while Soonja watches over them. Later, Jacob finds a new spot on his land to drill for water and he and David harvest some of the minari that Soonja had planted.

2. What Happens to Grandma Soonja?

The film does not come clear about Soonja’s fate. It suggests that she might still be alive, but she does not appear in the final shots of the movie. Usually, Soonja accompanies David to visit the Minari they had planted together, but Jacob joins his son for the first time in the film in Minari’s last scene. 

How Grandma Soonja’s Fire Accident Changes Everything in Minari’s Ending
Grandma Soonja | Source: IMDb

The last scene featuring Soonja featured Jacob, Monica, Anne, and David sleeping together on their home floor, with Soonja gazing at them affectionately. This moment could imply that she has always and will always watch over them from a transcendent spiritual perspective if she did die by the end of Minari, but the ending is open to interpretation.

3. Soonja and the Burning Shed Explained

Soonja should have been more cautious about burning the trash alone since her well-meaning act destroyed much of Jacob’s produce. 

Earlier in the film, David constantly mentions that Soonja does not behave like a proper grandma. The idea that she is a burden to the family and not helpful enough could have instigated Soonja to prove herself useful to her daughter’s family despite facing physical difficulties after her stroke. 

Ironically, Soonja’s unfortunate deed united the family. It proved to Monica that Jacob could still prioritize his family even when his agricultural goals were not met. In this way, the burning shed serves as a renewal for Jacob, Monica, and their family.

4. Does Jacob and Monica Get Divorced?

Shortly before Jacob’s shed caught fire, Monica told Jacob she wanted to separate herself as she did not want to live with him. This meant that Jacob and Monica would eventually get a divorce.

How Grandma Soonja’s Fire Accident Changes Everything in Minari’s Ending
Jacob and Monica | Source: IMDb

But it seems like the shed fire convinced Jacob and Monica to stay together despite their severe differences and Monica’s apprehensions. 

Though it is not explicitly shown in the final scenes of Minari, the fact that Jacob takes David to the Minari plant implies that Monica did not take the kids to live back in California. 

It symbolizes Soonja’s role in keeping their family together strangely and unexpectedly. The fire that she started was the unlikely catalyst for restoring the foundation of their family.

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5. About Minari

Minari  is a 2020 American drama film written and directed by Lee Isaac Chung. It stars Steven Yeun, Han Ye-ri, Alan Kim, Noel Kate Cho, Youn Yuh-jung, and Will Patton. A semi-autobiographical take on Chung’s upbringing, the plot follows a family of South Korean immigrants who try to make it in the rural United States during the 1980s.

Minari had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 26, 2020, winning both the U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury Prize and the U.S. Dramatic Audience Award. It began a one-week virtual release on December 11, 2020, and was released theatrically and via virtual cinema on February 12, 2021, by A24.



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