An epic story, exotic locales and electrifying performances from Bai Ling (Sky Captain and The World of Tomorrow), Tim Roth (Dark Water) and Nick Nolte (Hotel Rwanda) highlight this moving film that celebrates the power of... more » the human spirit. Raised as an orphan, Binh (Damien Nguyen) is a young Vietnamese man with one impossible dream: to be reunited with his birth father, an American G.I. who left without a trace. In an incredible odyssey that stretches from Saigon to New York to Texas, Binh confronts unimaginable hardships as he finds danger, love and, finally, the key to unlocking the mysteries of his past.« less
Nanette L. (travelgrrl) from CROSSVILLE, TN Reviewed on 8/16/2008...
Excellent movie about the incredible obstacles facing some people as they seek the American dream...really a humbling movie.
Less than dust
Joseph Haschka | Glendale, CA USA | 07/08/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"THE BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY opens in rural Vietnam in 1990. A young man, Binh (Damien Nguyen), is obviously unlike his fellows. He's tall and large-boned. In fact, he's the offspring of a marriage between a Vietnamese woman and an American serviceman back during the war years. The natives have a derogatory term for such children: Bui Doi, or "Less Than Dust". Indeed, Binh is ostracized even among the relatives with whom he lives - he must eat his meals outside rather than around the dining table. And, when another man marries into the family, Binh is forced from the house. Subsequently, he goes to Saigon to find his mother, Mai (Thi Kim Xuan), who works as a housekeeper in the home of an arrogantly rich family, the son of which has fathered a young boy by Mai, Tam (Dang Quoc Thinh Tran).
For a brief period, Binh works for his mother's employer. Then, a tragic accident forces Mai to compel her son to flee aboard a refugee boat with all her savings, Tam, and the Texas address (from their marriage license) of her American husband, Steve, whom she hasn't seen since he abruptly disappeared decades before. The two eventually end up in a well-intentioned, but grim, Malaysian refugee camp/prison. Here, Binh meets, and falls in love with, Ling (Ling Bai), a young singer wannabe from China. The two combine their money to escape to an offshore freighter, a veritable rust bucket, that'll ferry them (and a multitude of other unfortunates) on the final leg to the United States for a steep price up front and a signed contract for indentured servitude upon arrival. The voyage proves to be a nightmare that many don't survive. But, Binh does, and after a period working as a fast food delivery boy in the Big Apple, he sets out for the Lone Star State to find his father armed only with the address and a time-worn picture of Steve, Mai and himself taken when he was a baby.
The viewer may be forgiven for believing that THE BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY is a Vietnamese production. In fact, it's Norwegian, with English-subtitled Vietnamese dialogue evolving to pidgin-English, then American English, as Binh's language skills steadily improve.
The lead actors are undeniably Damien Nguyen and Ling Bai, though, because of their greater familiarity to American audiences, or because it was written into their contracts, Tim Roth and Nick Nolte, both of whom have crucial but relatively small parts, will probably receive billing in the movie adverts way out of proportion to their actual on-screen time. Roth plays the coldy practical, but not completely unsympathetic, captain of the New York bound freighter with its cargo of misery, while Nolte appears as Steve.
The ending of this visually eloquent and poignant film is bittersweet almost to the point of being tragic. Yet, the viewer is sustained by the knowledge that Binh is ultimately in a better place. Indeed, because THE BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY is a convergence of three tragedies, i.e., the plight of the outcast Bui Doi, that of illegal aliens smuggled into the U.S., and the terrible cost of the Vietnam War on some of the American military who served in that conflict, it would be a gratuitous cop-out if the conclusion was more warm and fuzzy.
Finally, if you think "The Beautiful Country" necessarily refers to the United States, then think again. For the characters, it's a matter of personal perspective."
"Keep A Good Heart" ~ A Generation In Search Of Identity
Brian E. Erland | Brea, CA - USA | 02/19/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The film opens with the statement: 'Bui Doi' meaning: "less than dust." The phase is used to describe the children of a Vietnamese mother and an American father. Not an uplifting beginning, but an all to true reality.
Binh (Damien Nguyen), a young man born of a Vietnamese Mother and an American solider decides to go to America in search of his Father. 'The Beautiful Country' chronicles the hardships, disappointments, losses and tragedies that occur along the way.
This is not what I would call a happy movie even though it appears Binh is successful at reaching his ultimate goal in the end. Finding what you are searching for doesn't necessarily mean everything will finally work out as you had hoped. True to its subject matter it shows the situation as it is. Many young adult Vietnamese of mixed origin are still looking for self identity and the Father that left them behind. A story that needs to be told. Ultimately you are left to wonder what 'Beautiful Country' is the title of the film refering to. Vietnam or America?
Wonderful performance by newcomer Damien Nguyen and the exotic Bai Ling, with solid performances by Nick Nolte, Tim Roth and Temuera Morrison."
Gorgeously Filmed and Strangely Unpredictable
Bart King | Portland, Oregon | 01/05/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"THE BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY employs a Norwegian director, a half-Filipino writer, and a primarily Chinese and Vietnamese cast to paint its picture of a man's search for self-resolve and his father. As the offspring of a G.I. and a Vietnamese beauty, Binh (exquisitely portrayed by first-timer Damien Nguyen) is oversized and ostracized in his native land.
The plot of this movie is like a Chinese dhow tacking into a wind that keeps changing direction; if you have the patience to watch, its progress is both slow and unpredictable. As Binh progresses on his path, he graduates from fatalistic survival mode to self confidence. And along the way, Binh makes the acquaintance of Tim Roth as the memorable and morally devoid captain of a rusting scow filled with human cargo. (Where has Roth been? This film is a reminder that he's been MIA too long.)
SIDELIGHT: Screenwriter Sabina Murray worked with auteur Terrence Malick (THE THIN RED LINE) on the script preparation. His contributions was to work in memorable visual scenes (of which this movie has many) and the casting of Nick Nolte playing the magnificent wreck of a man. (In other words, playing himself.)"
An original approach
Joseph Bernstein | Providence, RI United States | 07/18/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This film was very well made and cast-the direction,screenplay,acting,cinematography,and location shooting all blended harmoniously.Nick Nolte's role was small in total screen time,but not in importance.Damien Nguyen was highly effective and believeable as the protagonist even though this is apparently his first film performance.Ling Bai and Temuera Morrison are strong in supporting roles.Ling Bai is an experienced and well-known actress,but Morrison may not be a household name to most in the US-he plays the role of a menacing "snakehead" smuggler to perfection-if anyone has seen him in "Once Were Warriors"made in New Zealand it's apparent that he can play the kind of people you wouldn't want to know real well.The depiction of the alien smuggling operation and its aftermath in the USA is solid-I know from my professional experience of over 20 years as an INS agent.The film has a surprise in it-you think you know the story,but you don't.I don't put spoilers in my reviews.It's truly worth seeing."
Leave it to the Norwegians
Peter Rorvig | Zirconia NC | 03/20/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Leave it to the Norwegians (this was a Norwegian production) to produce a movie as harrowing and, at the same time, as understated as this one. The main character's courage and perseverance is really heroic. He rises to meet his challenges under unbelievably consistent bad circumstances...the stigma of being half Vietnamese/ half American, unwanted by both, constantly hanging over his head. This movie contains so many really beautiful and memorable images...and at its quiet conclusion leaves the viewer wanting the best for its characters."