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Rose Garcia from Texas (Broadway star Eva Noblesada) loves country music, writes and performs it on her own. The movie begins with Rose riding a bike home on a typical American bike with a crank on its handlebar. She lives with her mom Priscilla (Princess Bunzalan) in a motel room, where her mom also works. She commemorates her deceased father, prays for dinner and listens to LPs while she does her homework. In the mirror her eyes broadened (in an undisclosed reference to the influence of racism against Asia) and in the cowboy hat she worked on her song, which begins with the words “I Never Fit.”
With her high school friend Elliott (Liam Booth), she secretly went to Austin to go to a famous country pub. When they got back, she saw her mom being taken by ICE. Her life changes after that and there. She has to go to her aunt, who she has never met. But she also leaves because her aunt’s husband doesn’t want another baby. Rose decides to find her own path.
Jolene (Libby Villary; Boyhood, Friday Night Lights), the pub owner, takes it under her wing. In the pub, she is linked to country singer Dale Watson (the artist plays her), who sees her talent and becomes her mentor. Writing music is not only a creative outlet for Rose, but it is also a way to address recent traumatic events in her life.
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Although the film premiered at the Los Angeles Asia-Pacific Film Festival in 2019, the story surrounding the fear of being stopped and the acting it conveys is a very recent subject. There are a number of subtle, but sharp, references to the anti-Asian racism that Rose has had to deal with. I fell in love with the country when I was little. I participated in a talent show and then they started calling me “The Yellow Rose,” said to Watson, to which he answered, “It’s not funny.”
Paragas manages to portray a perfect balance between the life of an undocumented teen and the American dream and the (fear of) deportation effect on the family. But also to show in an insightful way, through the character of the mother, how people and children caught by ICE are treated. They take everything. We are treated like criminals. I don’t even have a name anymore. I am N-35.
Above all, the story shows that while Rose sometimes feels like an “inconsistent number,” the United States is her home. Something that also applies to hundreds of other children and adults who are growing up without documents and living in the country.