Sunday, November 17, 2019

Yellow Rose - 2019 Hawaii International Film Festival Movie Review

The Movie: Yellow Rose

The Director: Diane Paragas

The Cast: Eva Noblezada, Princess Punzalan, Dale Watson, Libby Villari and Lea Salonga

The Story: Rose, an undocumented 17 year old Filipina, dreams of one day leaving her small Texas town to pursue her country music dreams. Her world is shattered when her mom suddenly gets picked up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The Review:
This is one of those movies that pulls every single one of your heart strings, even ones you didn't know you ever had, and brings up a swirl of emotions that will leave you heartbroken, inspired, angered, and filled with love all at the same time. Diane Paragas has made a film about Filipino people for Filipino people and runs headfirst straight through the doors that had been busted open by recent Asiancentric cinema like Crazy Rich Asians and The Farewell.

At the core of this movie is a star making performance from Eva Noblezada who plays 17 year old undocumented immigrant Rose Garcia, an up and coming actress who has been praised for her recent work on the Broadway production of Miss Saigon. She is so talented and displays all of it in this movie both as an actress and as a singer. She has the star power and charisma that Hollywood casting directors would die for and the 23 year old easily holds her own with co-stars Lea Salonga who she also performed with on Miss Saigon and long time singer-songwriter Dale Watson whose character becomes a mentor to Rose.

This isn't just a coming of age story for Rose, it's a commentary on current events that are affecting people right now here in the United States. At the beginning of the movie, Rose's mom is arrested and detained by ICE and is eventually scheduled for deportation bringing to the forefront that the young woman herself has been living in the country illegally. This complicates things in so many ways just as Rose is going into her final year of high school, has a budding relationship, and is being encouraged to pursue a musical career.

Paragas, who has been working on this film in some fashion for over 15 years, handles all of these swirling topics beautifully and with an emotional persistence that never goes over the top and keeps you firmly engaged with the interwoven plot threads. The songs in the movie are perfectly on topic and performed beautifully by Noblezada making me think that this movie is everything A Star is Born has ever wanted to be and so much more.

The Verdict:
Yellow Rose is a beautiful movie that has a ton of heart, a timely message, and a knock out performance from Eva Noblezada. Please make more movies like this and put them in all the theaters.

Yellow Rose is an official selection of the 2019 Hawaii International Film Festival.

To keep track of all my reviews and festival coverage please go to: TwoOhSix at HIFF 2019.

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