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(For Day 28 of NaPoWriMo, the prompt was to write a poem of questions, so mine asks you to compare your struggles with those of the past.)

Did the people I admire
Throw their hands up and retire
When the world was just as rotten
As the world has been to me?

Did the heroes and the dreamers
Yield to censurers and screamers
And abandon their ambitions
To accept reality?

Was their journey less demanding
Or the road more understanding
Than the one that lays before me,
Which no protest will improve?

Did the Greats not show that hoping
Is a fruitful way of coping
And each forward step you take is one
The world cannot remove?

MPA rating:  PG-13 (for language)

Yellow Rose didn’t seem to be on anyone’s radar back in 2019, but it falls into the hidden gem category for me. Set in Texas, the film details the struggles of Filipina teenager Rose Garcia (Eva Noblezada of Broadway’s Hadestown) as she realizes she is an illegal immigrant when her mother (Princess Punzalan) is arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Suddenly without a home or a guardian, she turns to the kindness of strangers and her love of country music to give her a chance at a better life.

With immigration being very much in the news lately, Yellow Rose is both timely and heartfelt, calling out the process of immigration crackdowns while retaining empathy for all affected by it. While one might expect the story to include more anti-immigrant sentiment, the people Rose encounters are nearly all compassionate and helpful, from the kind boy she grows to like (Liam Booth) to the aging country star who recognizes her songwriting talent (Dale Watson, playing himself). On a side note, it’s interesting that both Noblezada and Lea Salonga, who plays her aunt, have played the lead in Miss Saigon on Broadway.

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The drama is uniformly genuine, and both Punzalan and Noblezada give award-worthy performances as the mother and daughter who are separated by both walls and plans for the future. Plus, Noblezada (looking and playing much younger than she is) can really sing, and her music being an outlet for her woes goes back to the blues that classic country has voiced in years past. While the film goes a bit too long in the last act and oddly never fully addresses Rose’s most pressing concern of citizenship, it’s a warm-hearted tale that bemoans the system while never losing sight of the people in it.

Best line: (Rose, to Dale, turning her strong emotions into inspiration) “I’ve got some s*** to write.”

Rank:  List Runner-Up

© 2021 S.G. Liput
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