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Though she came to Texas as a child from the Philippines, 17-year-old Rose Garcia (played by emerging Broadway star Eva Noblezada) has been obsessed with country music since she was knee-high to a grasshopper. Now that her father is dead, she only plays for herself, too shy to share her music even with Elliot (Liam Booth), the cute guy at the music store. Her mother, Priscilla (Princess Punzalan), a housekeeper at a motel, is supportive, even if she nags Rose to put homework first and doesn’t like the idea of Rose going to a gig in Austin with Elliot. But their bickering over curfew times suddenly seems trivial when Priscilla is arrested by immigration police and incarcerated, revealing that neither she nor Rose have the right documentation to make them legal.
As it looks increasingly likely Priscilla will get deported, Rose goes to stay with her aunt Gail (singer Lea Salonga). But Gail’s prissy white husband makes her feel unwelcome, so she ends up getting taken in first by a kindly bar owner and later on by one of the bar’s star regular performers Dale Watson, here essentially playing himself in a slightly stilted but charming performance. With his tutelage, Rose’s own songwriting skill begins to blossom.
The bittersweet trajectory of the story is as easy to predict as a chord progression. But as with country music itself, the point here is not so much to rewrite the rules of the genre but to display finesse in the execution, and offer tiny, original tweaks of the formula – for example by having the star be an outsider to the usual country music milieu. In a way, the film recalls – in narrational and titular botanical terms – the Glasgow-set Wild Rose from last year, which offered a knockout star turn from Jessie Buckley as an ex-con who dreams of making it in Nashville. Yellow Rose is less fanciful, more resolutely American in setting and style, earnest but also a shade less interesting – though, from a country perspective, the music is better in this film. Noblezada has great pipes and a natural screen presence that augurs well for her future career.
• Released on digital formats on 28 December.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Yellow Rose review – bittersweet tale of Filipina’s quest to be a country music star | Drama films