A Vietnamese man looking for a better life embarks on a dangerous and eye-opening voyage to America in this powerful drama set during the early '90s. In 1990, Binh (Damien Nguyen) is a man in his early twenties who has never known his parents, though he is clearly of mixed-race parentage, which makes him an outcast in his community. Weary of being treated like an animal, Binh sets out to find his mother, Mai (Thi Kim Xuan Chau), only to discover she works as a servant for a wealthy family who subject her to constant abuse, and that she has a baby son. When a household accident leads to the death of the matriarch, Mai, her infant, and Binh go on the run. Mai then confesses to Binh that she's dying, gives him all the money she has, and implores him to leave Vietnam for America, with his half-brother in tow. Unable to travel to America legally, Binh attempts to smuggle his way into the States aboard a ship; he's found out, and is sent to a prison camp in Malaysia, where he meets Ling (Bai Ling), a beautiful woman who has been forced into prostitution to support herself. Befriending Ling, Binh eventually arranges for passage to America aboard a refugee ship, though the harrowing voyage claims the life of Binh's half-brother. Binh and Ling arrive in New York City as illegal aliens, and soon learn that life in America can be just as harrowing as what they left behind; eventually, Binh runs away, hoping to make his way to Texas where he's learned that his father is living. Produced by Terrence Malick, The Beautiful Country also features supporting performances from Nick Nolte and Tim Roth.
~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide