THE BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY
A Harrowing, Poetic Survival Story
Release Date: July 08, 2005
Audience: Teenagers and adults
Runtime: 125 minutes
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Director: Hans Petter Moland
Writer: Sabina Murray
Address Comments To:Michael Barker, Tom Bernard and Marcie Bloom
Sony Pictures Classics
550 Madison Avenue, 8th Floor
New York, NY 10022
Phone: (212) 833-8833
Web Page: http://www.sonyclassics.com
The movie opens in the rural countryside of Vietnam in the 1990s, where young Binh struggles with the prejudice against the children of American soldiers and Vietnamese women. Binh decides to travel to Saigon to find the mother who abandoned him, and perhaps find a clue to his father's whereabouts.
In Saigon, Binh's mother works as a lowly housemaid to a powerful family in a large house, where the son of the mean-spirited matriarch enjoys groping Binh's mother. Binh's mother tells him that his father just suddenly disappeared, even though they were married in a Catholic Christian ceremony.
One day, a misunderstanding and an accident leave the matriarch dead and bleeding. Binh and his mother probably will be blamed. So, Binh's mother gives Binh all her savings and begs him to take her other son, Tam, Binh's younger brother, to Texas, the state where his white father said he lived.
Thus begins Binh and Tam's desperate struggle to survive sea pirates smuggling immigrants, storms and sickness at sea, and the harsh realities of immigrant slave labor, in Southeast Asia, the Pacific Ocean and New York City. Along the way, they befriend a pretty Chinese woman, Ling, who sells her body to survive, but helps Binh take care of Tam. Binh falls in love with Ling, but nothing comes of it, and she goes her own way after they are smuggled to New York City. Tragedy and misery seem to follow Binh, but, eventually, Binh learns the surprising reasons behind his father's disappearance and he discovers at least a small measure of happiness.
THE BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY is a thoroughly engrossing story, despite its low budget. It is also a heartbreaking, often harrowing, movie that, at the same time, has morally positive moments and a poignant, uplifting ending. Compared to some of the events occurring before it, the ending is perhaps too quiet, and, hence, anti-climactic, but the filmmakers were going after a realistic ending rather than a big dramatic climax. Thus, it could be argued that the quiet ending suits the movie and is perfectly natural. The ending certainly is one of the more poetic endings you'll see in a movie this year (or any other year for that matter).
A stronger moral worldview and stronger Christian content would make THE BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY better, but, as it is, the movie is very good. In fact, the story and plot are actually the reverse of Pixar's animated classic, FINDING NEMO, which is about a father searching for his son, who has suddenly disappeared. Therefore, most discerning, mature moviegoers should find THE BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY to be a moving, ultimately positive, experience. The movie contains a limited amount of strong foul language, brief violence and some lightly implied sexual immorality when Binh and Tam befriend a prostitute who is also smuggled into America with them (see the CONTENT section above). Consequently, MOVIEGUIDE® advises extreme caution for mature audiences.
THE BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY is a thoroughly engrossing story. It is a heartbreaking, often harrowing movie that, at the same time, has many poignant, uplifting and morally positive moments. A stronger moral worldview and stronger Christian content would make THE BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY better, but, as it is, the movie is very good. The movie contains a limited amount of strong foul language, brief violence and some lightly implied sexual immorality when Binh and Tam befriend a prostitute who is also smuggled into America with them. Therefore, MOVIEGUIDE® advises extreme caution.