Review by Sean Boelman
The immigration crisis is one of the most important issues that our country is facing today, and while it is hard to talk about, it is a conversation that needs to be had. Diane Paragas’s coming-of-age drama Yellow Rose talks about these themes in a way that will be palatable to audiences while still communication their urgency and emotional weight.
The film follows a Filipina teenager who finds herself drawn between her ambitions to become a country music singer and her love for her family after her mother is apprehended by ICE and is threatened with deportation. Yet despite the fact that the core story is conventional and predictable, it is told from such an authentic and important perspective that it is still completely riveting.
Even though the movie hits a lot of familiar story beats, the film is under an hour and thirty-five minutes, which allows the movie to be very breezy despite its familiarity. That said, there are some issues with the film’s tone, as there are substantial portions of the movie which lean heavily on melodrama. Still, there is so much of an emotional connection to the issue at hand that it doesn’t really matter.
For the most part, it’s an uplifting film about a young and passionate artist pursuing her dreams despite the immense challenges she faces. However, Paragas doesn’t shy away from the difficulty of the current situation that immigrants are facing in this country today, showing the pain that these immigrants are facing as a result of current policies.
The protagonist is obviously a very sympathetic character because of the situation in which she finds herself, but unfortunately, the movie’s character development stops with her. All of the supporting characters are very archetypal, and although some of them offer some well-written moments of wisdom, they are little more than guides for the protagonist.
Eva Noblezada gives what should be a star-making performance in her lead role, if only this film were released in more conducive circumstances. But her turn has so many layers to it that allow the movie to overcome its occasional histrionics. In the supporting cast, Libby Villari and Dale Watson are both very good, although their roles are much less substantial.
Part of what makes this film stand out is that, unlike most other music-based movies, it works even without the underdog story. The film thankfully doesn’t live and die by its music, so even for those who aren’t a fan of country tunes, it can still be an enjoyable watch. Still, the main song is nice, if somewhat forgettable.
Yellow Rose often seems like it is about to be weighed down by its conventions, but Diane Paragas is able to hold everything together. This may not be the deepest exploration of these issues possible, but it may be the one most likely to connect with those who most need to hear the message.
Yellow Rose opens in theaters on October 9.
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