Youn’s Soon-ja arrives at a time when her character’s son-in-law Jacob (Steve Yeun) and daughter Monica (Yeri Han) are struggling with setting up their dream garden. The family lives in a rectangular home on cinder blocks and is adjusting to small-town life with their two children, tween Anne (Noel Cho) and grade-schooler David, who has a heart problem (Alan Kim). At first, David dislikes his grandmother with her TV wrestling fixation, disparaging her by saying, “She smells like Korea.”
But the bedroom mates soon become thick as thieves with a shared fondness for guzzling Mountain Dew and going on walks in the nearby forest. That is where Soon-ja finds just the right spot near a creek to grow the Korean herb minari. Her contribution turns out to be the likely salvation for her loved ones. The scenes with granny and David together are pure movie magic, even if she wears men’s underwear and swears. Next up is the Screen Actors Guild Awards, where Youn will compete in the Supporting Actress category, as well as for Outstanding Cast in a Motion Picture.
This Berlin-born 12-year-old more than holds her own opposite Tom Hanks in Paul Greengrass’ latest film. She appeared in the main role of an aggressive and traumatized nine-year-old girl in the 2019 drama “System Crasher,” which won her the German Film Prize for Best Actress in her country’s version of the Oscars. That led her to be cast as orphan Joanna Leonberger in “News of the World,” set in 19th century Texas as the country tried to heal its divisions after the Civil War.
Zengel has no problem keeping up with Hanks on screen, and they make a colorful pair—part “True Grit” and part “The Miracle Worker,” as she grows to trust Captain Kidd and learns his language. Zengel’s lauded performance has allowed her to join other child stars as Anna Paquin, Macauley Culkin and Haley Joel Osment as one of the youngest Golden Globe nominees ever. Alas, she lost out to a former child actress, Jodie Foster in “The Mauritanian.”
How did she seal the deal of winning his gem of a role? As she told Variety, she and her mother flew to London so she could meet the filmmakers. During the audition, “I had a moment where I had to bite my mom, and I got the role.” Zengel was nominated for Best Young Performer at the Critics Choice Awards but lost out to Alan Kim from “Minari.” Next is the Screen Actors Guild Awards, where she is nominated for Best Supporting Actress.