Film-Forward Review: [THE BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY]

Reviews of Recent Independent, Foreign, & Documentary Films in Theaters and DVD/Home Video

Damien Nguyen as Binh
Photo: Ronald Nevea/Sony Pictures Classics

Rotten Tomatoes
Showtimes & Tickets
Enter Zip Code:

Directed by: Hans Petter Moland.
Produced by: Edward R. Pressman, Terrence Malick, Petter J. Borgli & Tomas Backström.
Written by: Sabina Murray & Lingard Jervey.
Director of Photography: Stuart Dryburgh.
Edited by: Wibecke Rønseth.
Music by: Zbigniew Preisner.
Released by: Sony Pictures Classics.
Language: English, Cantonese, Mandarin & Vietnamese with English subtitles.
Country of Origin: USA/Norway. 125 min. Rated: R.
With: Nick Nolte, Tim Roth, Bai Ling, Temuera Morrison & Damien Nguyen.

Set in 1990, Binh (Damien Nguyen), is just one of the many Vietnamese who have been left behind by an American father. Ridiculed for his height, he towers over the crowded streets - a constant reminder of the villagers' former enemy. With sheer perseverance, Binh escapes Vietnam in search of his American family, enduring the "boat people" migration, a refugee camp and a voyage on a human trafficking freighter in which the dead are dumped overboard before reaching America. Tim Roth is disquieting as Captain Oh, who challenges Binh with his cynicism and greed. But the harrowing journey is prolonged and melodramatic, making it not as affecting as it desires to be.

Instead, the story takes a much more convincing turn once Binh lands in the US, where he is exposed to the reckless corruption and exploits of bustling New York City. Even as the love of his life, Ling (Bai Ling), succumbs to streetwalking, Binh's gentle, good-hearted spirit is indomitable - he's almost like a knowing Forrest Gump, being painfully attuned to the tragedies of life unrecognized by most. A long way from the waterscapes of Vietnam, cinematographer Stuart Dryburgh (best known for his work in The Piano,) captures son and father finally together under the sprawling Texan sky, where the silent chemistry between Nguyen and the understated Nick Nolte is effectively poignant.

Despite some rushed and abrupt plot twists, The Beautiful Country is an ambitious odyssey propelled by fine acting and a strong message. It will have viewers contemplating what exactly makes a country like America beautiful - especially in the eyes of an individual like Binh. Marie Iida
July 8, 2005



Archive of Previous Reviews, 180 Thompson Street, New York, NY 10012 - Contact us