‘Yellow Rose’ Is An Intimate, Timely And Heart-Stirring Film – Review
For many immigrants and refugees, the mythos of the “American Dream” is not an unfamiliar concept. However, the reality is not at all what it’s promised to, and unfortunately is a harsh deception for those who are undocumented living in the United States.
Directed by Diana Paragas, Yellow Rose dives into the gripping story of Rose Garcia, an undocumented Filipina 18-year-old, as she tries to balance family values and her dream of being a country singer while facing the threat of being deported.
The film is led by an incredibly strong cast, with Eva Noblezada in her film debut as Rose, Princess Punzalan as Priscilla Garcia, and the absolute legend Lea Salonga as Gail Garcia. Each actress brings an intimacy to their characters and their scenes that tugs at our heartstrings. I couldn’t help but be drawn to all of them. Noblezada’s performance in the lead role is praiseworthy, she portrayed the youthful spirit that a teenager normally would have but she also carries the weight of the reality that is her mother’s deportation and her own life now as an undocumented immigrant.
At first, I thought the movie was going to be your typical teen coming-of-age story for Rose who appeared to have lived a sheltered life. We see that she’s enthusiastic about country music and wants to experience life beyond her little bubble. While that is certainly one struggle that Rose faces, there is much more at risk. Throughout the beginning of the film, we get snippets of the Garcia’s status in the U.S., and on the night when Rose is finally able to sneak out as teenagers do, she returns home to ICE (Immigrations and Customs Enforcement) arresting her mother for not being a legal American citizen. It was at this point that I realized that although this is a coming-of-age story, it’s about far more than simply a teenager becoming a young adult.
What I enjoyed most about Yellow Rose is how intricate Rose’s story is. It pushed my expectations into thinking that this was only about Rose’s struggle of becoming a country singer, but it was far beyond that. The hurdles she faces are not what the “average teenager” deals with. We are met face-to-face with the fact that she has no permanent place to stay, that she might be a burden to her closest family, that she now has to live her life day-to-day on edge and be ready to leave at a moment’s notice. Each relationship she has with the other characters on screen is incredibly personal, with so much said in just the weight of silence and unspoken words.
Not only is the acting and the story phenomenal, but the music also cannot be dismissed. As an upcoming singer-songwriter, Rose creates songs that are pertinent to her experiences and her struggles. Of course, the musical performances are defined by the vocal talents of Noblezada (having performed on stage in shows such as; Miss Saigon and Hadestown) as well as country singer Dale Watson (who portrays himself in the film). It was touching hearing the emotional and stirring soundtrack, and I must applaud Dale Watson, Diane Paragas, and Thia Megia for the songs, and Christopher H. Knight for the score.
I cannot recommend this absolute gem of a film enough. It is poignant, touching, and so necessary. Ultimately, for me, this movie was a timely reminder that this is a reality for so many people around us, especially in the U.S. where they live day to day in fear that the lives they’ve worked so hard for will be taken away from them. It is far too easy to distance ourselves when we see the news of undocumented immigrants being arrested and chased down. Yellow Rose reminds us that these immigrants are people who deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. It is a poignant reflection of privilege that many people take for granted: stable work, consistent housing, and the safety that is the label of citizenship. Yellow Rose is also for those with the privilege, a reminder to extend kindness to those in need.