Film Review: Yellow Rose

STUDIO: Sony | DIRECTOR: Diane Paragas | CAST: Eva Noblezada, Dale Watson, Princess Punzalan, Lea Salonga
RELEASE DATE: Oct. 9, 2020
SPECS: PG-13 | 94 min. | Music drama

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie 3Dishes.jpg (40×13) 1/2

Over a decade in development, Diane Paragas’s (Brooklyn Boheme) Yellow Rose, a tender story of undocumented Filipina teenager in Texas, ironically debuts on the eve of a Presidential election stoked by heated debates surrounding immigration.

Grammy-winner and two-time Tony Award nominee Eva Noblezada (Broadway’s Hadestown and Miss Saigon), in her feature film debut, is Rose Garcia, a country music loving teen who lives at the roadside motel where her devoted and overly protective mother (Filipino actress Princess Punzalan) works cleaning rooms. Rose spends most of her free time writing songs on the beat-up acoustic guitar her late father gave her and her only friend Elliot (Liam Booth, Kindred Spirits) is the cashier who works at the music shop where she buys her strings.

Eva Noblezada in Yellow Rose

When Elliot invites her to go to The Broken Spoke saloon in Austin for a music show, Rose defies her mother and sneaks off. After a night of dancing, drinking and a chance encounter with famed singer Dale Watson (playing himself), she returns home to find her mother being led away by ICE officers and, with Elliot’s help, barely manages to escape herself.

With nowhere to go, Rose seeks out her estranged Aunt (Tony Award-winner Lea Salonga) only to be turned away because her American husband isn’t comfortable having an illegal living in their house. She heads back to The Broken Spoke and finds refuge with the bar’s manager (Libby Villari, Boyhood), appropriately named Jolene, and her new musical mentor Dale. With her mother facing deportation, Rose must decide if she’ll travel back to the Philippines with her or stay in her beloved Texas living in constant fear.

Rose, with her Filipino heritage and love of Texas twang is a literal representation of assimilation. Noblezada does a wonderful job conveying Rose’s sense of loss, loneliness and confusion, especially during the musical performances, where her voice shines. Speaking of which, the songs, co-written by Watson, are beautiful and fuse well with the story’s action.

Coming out of the world of documentaries, Yellow Rose is Paragras’s narrative debut, and her screenplay, co-written with Annie J. Howell and Celena Cipriaso, can veer into after school special territory at times. For example, when Rose first meets Dale he is surprised “someone like her” knows so much about country music. His remark is meant as an example of the prejudices that Rose faces on a daily basis but it seems a bit forced. Are we meant to believe a legendary singer in Austin, the most progressive town in the state, hasn’t come across one person of color with some country music acumen?

Additionally, Rose’s personal growth could have benefited from more interaction with people of similar experiences. As it stands, all of her saviors–Elliot, Jolene and Dale—are white. But Paragas does keep an evenhanded perspective throughout the film which, to its service, doesn’t preach or stray into political blustering, staying grounded with a nuanced focus on Rose’s story.

About Janine

Janine is a dedicated fan of the 1940 film Kitty Foyle, directed by Sam Wood, written by Dalton Trumbo and starring Ginger Rogers, who won an Oscar for her portrayal. And seeing that film is all it took to make her a lifelong movie lover. Janine is excited to add her insights to the great team at