Yellow Rose Review – A Country Musical Remix

Yellow Rose

In the world of creating music, sampling is “the reuse of a portion of a sound recording in another recording.” Yellow Rose is similar to a musician sampling from a tried and true melody but piecing it together in a fresh new heartfelt arrangement. Yellow Rose isn’t just a love letter to country music. It paints a tender and poignant portrait of a young undocumented Filipino American fighting to live her life in America and make her music. The film follows Rose Garcia (Eva Noblezada) an undocumented Filipina teen living with her mother, Priscilla (Princess Punzalan), in the outskirts of Austin, Texas. When ICE captures her mother, she traverses Austin to find her path in life. She must decide between being deported back to Manila with her mother or struggle to live out her musical dreams alone in America.

We’ve seen lots of variations of this story before, most recently with Tom Harper’s completely unrelated film, Wild Rose. A small-town nobody with tremendous talent who eventually grows into their role as an up-and-coming artist. With Yellow Rose, we don’t see Rose win any competition or achieve that record deal. Yet we see her accomplish the simpler goal of finding acceptance and acknowledgment.

There are a few themes that blend together, which composes the film’s overall narrative. First up, the Filipino family dynamic. Many Filipino families immigrate from the Philippines to America to find a better life for their children. I’m one of those products as the first member of my family to be born in America. Rose represents all of those children, whether born here or in the Philippines, that yearn for the opportunities that America provides.

Yet Filipino families can also be overbearing and overprotective. Hence it’s interesting to see the parental dilemma in Priscilla’s eyes. She wants to protect her daughter at all times, even if it means moving back home to the Philippines. Yet she also wants her daughter to have more opportunities as an adult, which is why they immigrated to America in the first place. The immigration topic is where Yellow Rose can be unsettling due to its depressing closeness to current events. To Rose, life gives, and life takes away. Luckily for her, that’s how the life of a music star usually begins — with hardship.

Yellow Rose - Princess Punzalan and Eva Noblezada

Despite that hardship, Rose perseveres with a vigorous spirit anchored by the passionate emotion of star Eva Noblezada. She has her complexities, but her stubbornness (a common Filipino trait, I must say) prevents her from quitting. She charts her course, even at the risk of failure. She’s a young woman who refuses to be a burden to anyone and refuses to beg for help. Noblezada’s resilient performance is a promising start to her feature film career. 

But she’s not alone, though. Her Miss Saigon predecessor, Filipino legend Lea Salonga, has a small role in the film, but it’s still memorable, nonetheless. She perfectly captures that Tita/Auntie personality of endless warmth and love. Honky-tonk legend Dale Watson is pitch-perfect as Rose’s country singing “Obi-Wan” who urges Rose to pursue her country music aspirations. Unfortunately, these characters feel underdeveloped as some of their subplots feel a bit weak. Not to mention, the ending hastily comes together, and Rose’s fate is wrapped up neatly with a nice bow. Yet after fifteen years of development, it’s apparent that Diane Paragas put a lot of tender, love, and care into this film.

Overall, Yellow Rose is a poignant coming-of-age film that touches upon a provocative subject matter. The film may sample from other musical dramas, but Diane Paragas remixes her country musical to comment on the issue of immigration. Yet, as a child of Filipino immigrants, there’s nothing better than living in a country with a melting pot of cultures. That’s the greatest message this film contributes to the world.

Rating: 4/5 atoms

Yellow Rose hits theaters on October 9th.

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