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One could say many things about Binh, the Amerasian-emigrant hero of The Beautiful Country, but not that he hasn’t been warned. “No country wants you,” a fellow internee tells him in Malaysia. “You will always be out of place,” says the captain of the boat ferrying him across the ocean to the United States. Being out of place, though, is Binh’s natural calling. Born during the Vietnam War to a Saigon woman and a Texas GI, he’s been a lifelong pariah in his mother’s family—scorned as “ugly,” loaded down with menial labor, forced to subsist on scraps. So when circumstances drive him from his native country, he quickly sets his sights on the home of his long-absent father. How the 20-something Binh (Damien Nguyen) gets to that promised land is the subject of this lovely and harrowing film, a coming-of-age odyssey that takes its hero through successive circles of hell—a brutal internment camp, a deadly sea crossing, indentured servitude in New York’s Chinatown—on the way to redemption. It’s a tearjerker that earns its tears—its blood and sweat, too—in part because director Hans Petter Moland never pushes harder than he needs to. He seems to have an innate sense of how long to hold each scene and how much weight to give each detail, as well as enough confidence in his resources to let the images tell much of Sabina Murray and Lingard Jervey’s story. An early scene of Binh ducking his oversized body under the canopies of a Vietnamese market conveys his dislocation better than any voice-over narration could, and the horrific sequences on the refugee ship, where enslaved emigrants carry corpses up to the deck every morning and battle each other for rice, lacks only the stench of death in the air. Moland is equally deft with his cast, seamlessly melding name actors such as Nick Nolte and Tim Roth (both unusually restrained) with talented unknowns such as Nguyen, who makes Binh a stunned, slow-burning observer of his own life. We may think we know where Binh is headed, but The Beautiful Country gives us a reunion that savors the bitter as much as the sweet—and reminds us that its title is just an elusive state of belonging. —Louis Bayard