The inspired thing about "The Beautiful Country" is that the beautiful country in it is hard to find, at least from the perspective of Binh (Damien Nguyen). There is present-day Vietnam, where we first meet this unfortunate young man, a bastard whose lot it is as the son of an American GI and a native servant to scrape and grovel as an outcast. Then there is the empty and flat landscape of Texas, where Binh arrives after a long and suffering journey to find his father (Nick Nolte), a former military man who fathered him while in Vietnam. In between we float and stifle as a stowaway and asylum-seeker along with Binh, humping from one border to the next in the classless version of travel for the economically depressed. Directed by Hans Petter Moland, "The Beautiful Country" is an unforgiving lesson on the uncertainty of life and the kind of humanity that results from a lack of compassion.
As if to intensify the lesson, Binh is eventually befriended by a captain of an illegal refugee ship (Tim Roth), a sadistic brute of a man who for some reason takes a liking to him. The captain makes some kind of vexing excuse for his unlikely behavior, but we see the truth: His pity has no more reasoning than cruelty. "The Beautiful Country" is much needed proof that the world can be presented as it is, allowing an audience to find the beauty in it. Wayne Melton
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