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‘Yellow Rose’ review: Hitting all the right notes

Oggs Cruz
‘Yellow Rose’ review: Hitting all the right notes

Still courtesy of ABS-CBN

'Yellow Rose is buoyed by its smallness and its insistence on grounding itself in survival'

At first glance, Diane Paragas’ Yellow Rose seems like just another A Star is Born clone, a film scaled down not as a creative decision but for budgetary constraints, and focusing on a distinctly Filipino experience as a bid for originality.

Thankfully, the film hits all the right notes, cleverly avoiding the pitfalls of the American Idol-style rags-to-riches trope by venturing into more serious territories.

A familiar set-up

It opens with titular Rose (Eva Noblezada) coming home from school, saying her routine hellos to her stern mom (Princess Punzalan) and attempting to study, before strumming her guitar and singing the germ of what could be a lovely country-style song. 

The set-up is all too familiar. 

A clearly talented protagonist is prevented from pursuing her dreams by a domineering but doting mother whose strict belief in tradition forces her to think that music is just a distraction. Paragas dutifully introduces Rose’s possible lover (Liam Booth), a boy who invites her to Austin for a night of country music. The mom initially rejects the idea but then allows her.

It is when Rose gets home from her night out that Yellow Rose starts to teeter towards a more compelling destination, even if it still adheres to the irresistibly charm and glaring hopes that the world of country music has to offer. Rose’s mom is arrested by immigrations officers, leaving Rose to scramble from one home to another, experiencing the bleak and awful truths of the country she has always regarded her home.

Still courtesy of ABS-CBN
Buoyed by smallness

Yellow Rose is buoyed by its smallness and its insistence on grounding itself in survival, and not in grandiose ambition.

While the film seems like it is setting up for some sort of redemption for Rose through her music, it never really makes music the point of her existence. The film strings disappointment and rejection, making even the slightest emotional victory, whether it be an appreciative crowd in her first gig or a sudden first kiss, resonate with such deserved joy. Paragas is clearly in love with her protagonist, but doesn’t put her on a pedestal for her audience to adore. Instead, she is a human being whose barrage of struggles are made bearable by humble happiness.

Noblezada is amazing here. 

Her performance is admirably restrained, even if her role could have been interpreted with brusquer gestures. She lends herself to Paragas’ discourse, allowing her tiny frame and her distinctly Filipino looks to serve as a reminder of today’s America, which its harsh policies still refuse to acknowledge. 

The first time she dons a cowboy’s hat in her room, it seems awkward, and she immediately removes it when her mom walks in. The last time we see her, she again dons a cowboy’s hat, but this time, with ample confidence stemming from all the experiences that have made her acknowledge her place in the US’s effort to embrace its diversity.

Honesty, sincerity and real life

“True country music is honesty, sincerity, and real life to a hilt,” country singer Garth Brooks once said.

Yellow Rose understands this, marrying country music with the ever-changing landscape of the American experience, which is unfortunately now riddled with families forced to separate and survive, all in the name of false integrity.

The film doesn’t need to hard-sell this point. It only needs to deftly vocalize the emotions of those very real experiences. – Rappler.com

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