Provocative and lyrical, THE BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY tells the difficult story of a young man's search for his identity, through his long-lost parents. The film shows Binh's experience in lyrical, subtle, often extraordinary imagery (recalling the work of the film's producer, Terrence Malick). In one early scene, as Binh scrubs the foyer floor of his mother's employer, Stuart Dryburgh's camera shoots at a sharp angle, looking across the room from his scrub brush up to his mother, standing to dust a table. The son of her employer walks between them, cutting across the space as he approaches Mai, initially appearing only as feet -- Binh's head-down view, then fully in frame by the time the son casually and cruelly grabs at Mai's bottom.
Binh's friendship with a prostitute, Ling (Bai Ling), presents some predictable conflicts. He yearns for her, wants to save her, and also feels shame for her. His meeting with his father is full of conflict, as well. Binh may or may not forgive his father, but the more daunting effect is visible in their long pauses and Steve's brief, pained fingering of his son's "ugly" face. They're both enduring the continuing costs of war -- the Vietnam war in particular. Literally blind, Steve embodies U.S. lapses and longings, political and moral missteps, and the guilt that drives and undermines all efforts to do right.