The Beautiful Country

on July 08, 2005 by Annlee Ellingson
The son of an American GI and a Vietnamese woman, Binh (newcomer Damien Nguyen) has been rejected by his culture. Dubbed bui doi--"less than dust"--the young man towers over his fellow countrymen, hunching his back in a futile effort to blend in, and a scar straddles his lips, further marring a pockmarked face. Inevitably, curiosity about his parents drives Binh out of his rural village to Saigon and eventually on to America by way of a Malaysian refugee camp, a ship with a horde of illegal aliens huddled in its hold and slave-like working conditions in New York City.

Characterized by lyrical images akin to work by producer Terrence Malick, "The Beautiful Country" unfolds slowly. Norwegian director Hans Petter Moland's pace emulates Binh's laborious journey, but, although one desperately wants to like this well-meaning film, it ultimately evokes tedium.

The energy picks up, however, when Binh ditches the Big Apple for Houston, his father's last-known address, perhaps because one anxiously awaits the appearance of the top-billed Nick Nolte. It's in these passages that the warm and open-hearted beautiful country of the title is revealed, but we cut away from the tentative early overtures between father and son rent by war far too soon. Starring Nick Nolte, Damien Nguyen, Bai Ling and Tim Roth. Directed by Hans Petter Moland. Written by Sabina Murray. Produced by Edward R. Pressman, Terrence Malick, Petter Borgli and Tomas Backstrom. An SPC release. Drama. Rated R for some language and a crude sexual reference. Running time: 125 min.

Tags: Nick Nolte, Damien Nguyen, Bai Ling, Tim Roth, Directed by Hans Petter Moland, Written by Sabina Murray, Produced by Edward R. Pressman, Terrence Malick, Petter Borgli and Tomas Backstrom, SPC, Drama

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