The Beautiful Country Movie Review

It's getting harder to appreciate an immigrant saga like The Beautiful Country in which audiences are expected to be swayed by the poor and huddled masses. After all, isn't the United States a country of immigrants? To make such a film memorable, directors should try one of two things: Remind us of the importance of this notion through a distinctive personal narrative, or tell us something we haven't heard before. The Beautiful Country flirts with both possibilities, but not enough to produce something memorable.

In 1990 Vietnam, Binh (newcomer Damien Nguyen) has an even more difficult time because of his genetics. He's the product of a mixed marriage, a hasty but loving union of a Vietnamese mother and G.I. father, neither of whom he has seen in years. After he's forced out of his master/guardian's house, Binh, armed with little more than an old photograph and a bicycle, treks to Saigon where he reunites with his mother. A tragic accident forces another long, winding trek to America to find his father.

The details of The Beautiful Country make us take notice: the difficulty of Binh's life in Vietnam because of his father; the abusive class structure in Vietnam; the conditions Binh lives in when he moves to America (never mind the boat trip). Writer Sabina Murray doesn't delve enough into these little-discussed issues, the way director Joshua Marston did with drug smuggling in the harrowing Maria Full of Grace. Instead, the story's focuses on Binh's journey.

We never feel that it's his story. It'd be nice to know how long the resilient Binh bounced around the Vietnamese village or how he dealt with being marginalized in his own country. Outside factors force him to leave, but without any kind of personal reflection, you soon listen out of indifferent respect, the way a bored high school student would in your average history class. When Binh finally finds his father -- played with grizzled sympathy by Nick Nolte -- on the Texas prairie, it's hard to care. Without insight, and with Murray and director Hans Petter Moland's focus on Binh's trip, The Beautiful Country blends into all of our prior experiences with the immigrant's journey, whether it is through film, literature, or our own family histories.

Think of it another way: The reason why so many people follow sports is not because of the game, but because the storylines are different from season to season. There are new conflicts, new personalities. The games are fine, but the subplots continually give them new life. The Beautiful Country is OK on its own, well-acted and revealing in small ways. What it badly needs is Terrell Owens; in other words, a reason to pay attention.

She love you... ah, skip it.

Cast & Crew

Producer : Tomas Backström, Petter J. Borgli, , Edward R. Pressman


Comments

orangecrusher's picture

orangecrusher

I don't like your commentary on this film. I thought it was a touching movie. And it was specific to the character - but too specific such that we could not relate to it. There are so many Vietnamese immigrants in this country - often they are underrepresented at work, some are still illegal immigrants, I've seen people confuse their lack of English as a false sign of stupidity. It's annoying. I'm glad a movie like this was made. It in itself was beautiful - cinematically and thematically - and at least gave a voice to immigrants who fled from their country by boat to a new land. How could you compare Maria Full of Grace to this movie? How could you compare the writer of one movie to the director of another? Did you even see the interview with the writer (special feature on the DVD)? If you knew film, you'd know people have different roles. The director interprets the writer's screenplay (if there is even a writer - which, in The Beautiful Country, there is). This relationship between writer and director also differs from movie to movie. Overall, I found your argument was ill-founded. And you should not use the word "we" because it sounds like you're speaking for everyone.Now, to highlight the good points of the film, this movie was well-researched - the dialects are accurate, the places are accurate. The only thing I felt unsure of was that I thought the hostility from the upper to the lower class might have been exaggerated, but to my surprise, my Vietnamese-immigrant father assured me that some people did treat their housemaids that way. Overall, I was not fooled as an Vietnamese American viewer, so I can assure non-Vietnamese Americans viewers that the film / its research is authentic. Anyway, that said, everyone should see the movie before coming up with their own conclusions. Don't let a negative review (or a positive one for that matter) distort your desire to see the movie.

7 years 4 months ago
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The Beautiful Country Rating

" OK "

Rating: R, 2004

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