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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Yellow Rose is a poignant drama about a Filipina American teenager whose dreams of becoming a country music singer seem thwarted when her undocumented mother is detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Starring acclaimed Broadway actress Eva Noblezada as main character Rose, Tony Award winner Lea Salonga as her aunt, and real-life country singer Dale Watson as himself, the movie is a powerful own-voices endeavor, written and directed by Filipina American filmmaker Diane Paragas, who based the screenplay on some of her own experiences. Expect occasional strong language (mostly "s--t"), as well as a couple of kisses, some cigarette smoking, and a few scenes of excess drinking (by both underage and adult characters). ICE agents detain people in fraught and upsetting moments, and prison-like detainment facilities and treatment are depicted. The movie promotes perseverance, empathy, and compassion, and families who watch with their teens will have plenty to discuss, from immigration policies to racism to country music.
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What's the story?
YELLOW ROSE is a drama about 17-year-old Rose Garcia (Eva Noblezada), a Filipina American teen with dreams of becoming a country music singer-songwriter in the style of her icon, Patsy Cline. Rose lives with her widowed mother, Priscilla (Princess Punzalan), in a small-town Texas motel where Priscilla works as a cleaner. One day, Rose goes with her guitar-shop friend Elliot (Liam Booth) to Austin to attend a show at the Broken Spoke. Their evening of fun ends in fear and chaos, however, when the two return to find ICE agents detaining Priscilla, who's undocumented. At first Rose, with her guitar in tow, tries to stay with her mother's estranged and assimilated sister, Gail (Lea Salonga), who's married to an unsympathetic White man who isn't keen on Gail's "illegal" niece living with them. Eventually Rose bunks in a room at the Broken Spoke, thanks to kind owner Jolene (Libby Villari). While there, she jams with real-life musician Dale Watson (playing himself), who treats Rose like a protégé. Meanwhile, Priscilla's time at an ICE detention center seems hopeless, leaving Rose in a vulnerable, guardian-less state.
Is it any good?
Driven by Noblezada's standout central performance, writer-director Diane Paragas' memorable drama is an exploration of identity and immigration, as well as a lovely tribute to the power of music. Despite her Broadway experience, Noblezada downplays her star appeal through Rose's somewhat shy demeanor ... until she builds up her confidence and starts belting out country ballads in front of an audience. And it's a real coup for Paragas that she managed to secure Broadway legend Salonga to play Rose's Tita Gail. While she's mostly underused (although it's understandable, given the plot developments), Salonga does manage to sing Dahil Sa Iyo, a classic Tagalog love song. It's not nearly enough of her voice, but with Noblezada, Salonga, and Watson in the cast, there's more than one amazing voice on the soundtrack, which is fabulous.
As Rose goes from place to place looking for sanctuary, she grows as a musician but has to close in and protect herself. With her mother in custody, it's difficult for Rose to feel truly safe, even as others offer her a job, a bed, and even the chance to grow as a musician. Booth's Elliot is an ideal friend and potential love interest; he's obviously interested in Rose, but he realizes she has much bigger issues than a romantic relationship on her mind. He's exactly the kind of sweet, generous, and accepting 18-year-old there should be more of in popular culture. And Watson's gravitas is in full force as a larger-than-life version of himself. For a brief moment, audiences might fear what an older man might expect from an attractive younger woman, but -- thank goodness -- he's strictly a godfather figure. There are many sad moments in the film, but ultimately it's about perseverance and finding your way.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how issues of race, ethnicity, and immigration are depicted in Yellow Rose. Why is it important to discuss the treatment of immigrants? Should undocumented noncriminals be treated like criminals? What is your family's view about immigration policy and reform?
Discuss the substance use in the movie. Is it necessary to the story? What, if any, consequences are there for drinking? Is there a difference between the portrayal of underage drinking and excessive adult drinking?
Talk about the movie's title. It's both a nod to the classic song "The Yellow Rose of Texas" and a reference to a racial slur for Asians. How does Rose feel about her identity? Should your background matter when it comes to the kind of music you want to perform?
- In theaters: October 9, 2020
- On DVD or streaming: October 17, 2020
- Cast: Eva Noblezada, Lea Salonga, Dale Watson
- Director: Diane Paragas
- Studio: Sony Pictures
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Friendship, Music and Sing-Along
- Character strengths: Compassion, Empathy, Perseverance
- Run time: 94 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: some strong language, and teen drinking
- Awards/Honors: Common Sense Selection
- Last updated: March 4, 2021
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