Title – The Beautiful Country (2004)
Director – Hans Petter Moland (A Somewhat Gentle Man)
Cast – Damien Nguyen, Bai Ling, Tim Roth, Temuera Morrison, Nick Nolte
Plot – Half Vietnamese and half American Binh (Nguyen), sets off from his rural Vietnamese village to meet his birth mother and find his American father. This journey will lead Binh on a world spanning journey that includes many a colourful character that will help shape Binh’s future.
“I offer you a new life; you choose an old dream”
Review by Eddie on 15/06/2016
A little known Terrence Malick produced drama, The Beautiful Country is a quietly touching study of finding oneself in this great big world and a globe spanning journey for a likeable and caring young man who was shunned by his countryman through his hard and unforgiving upbringing.
Dealing with the not well known facet of Vietnamese lifestyle, where those children born to both Vietnamese and American parents are treated as outcasts, Norwegian director Hans Petter Moland handles the tricky subject matter with aplomb and whether his camera roams the countryside of Vietnam, the refugee camps of Malaysia or the American landscape, The Beautiful Country is most certainly a handsomely crafted tale that shuns its low end budget to create a film that feels both lavish and grand in the non-traditional sense.
Throughout almost every scene in this tale is Binh, who after years of wondering decides to set off to not only meet his natural Vietnamese mother but find his G.I American father. Played by then newcomer Damien Nguyen (who in the time since this film has virtually disappeared from the acting scene), Binh is a likeable character and is just one of many colourful and realistic characters that create a vibrancy and realism in The Beautiful Country that makes it really something special.
Throughout Binh’s journey to the lands of America he meets his loving mother, Bai Ling’s confused yet kind hearted Ling, Tim Roth’s people smuggling boat captain Oh and undoubtedly most importantly Nick Nolte’s one time G.I Steve, who Nolte plays with great power. Each of these characters whether on screen for extended periods or brief periods are well designed and constructed and each performer gives it theie all with Bai Ling in particular delivering what could well be her best ever performance.
It’s not hard to see why a visionary like Malick put his name to such a heartfelt piece of movie making and while The Beautiful Country stumbles in certain areas and at times feels hampered by its production constraints, there’s still a touching tale that shines uttermost throughout. It’s a shame more have not seen this journey and a shame also that director Moland has not found this vision again in his more recent career but we can be thankful that The Beautiful Country is here for us now to watch and appreciate.
4 angry Jango Fett’s out of 5