Reviewed by: Brett Willis
Starring: Gary Hetherington, Mary Kay Place, Wayne Rogers | Director: Simon Wincer | Written by: Christopher Knopf, David A. Simons
This is a wholesome and worthwhile film based on a true story; my daughter has enjoyed it since she was about four years old.
The film opens with a typical 1979 American family enjoying a day of backyard recreation; then cuts to a scene of a Cambodian widow and her children sneaking through the jungles and mud, trying to avoid the patrols and escape into Thailand. The two families eventually become one; the woman and her children are sponsored by the American family and given a chance for a new life here.
After the first shock of adjusting to American culture and material abundance is out of the way, there’s the language barrier. One of the daughters, Linn Yann, learns English very fast; the problem is that she’s doing it because she’s afraid (based on her experiences in Cambodia) that she might be killed if she doesn’t do everything perfectly. Eventually she gets a little more balanced in her outlook, but she’s still an overachiever and wins a spelling bee competition only four years after coming to the U.S.
There are hints at what the plight of refugees was like both in Cambodia and in the camps across the border; and initially we see some racist attitudes in a few of the host family’s neighbors (which they get over once they get to know the Cambodians as real people). All this and more is handled in an honest but non-graphic style, so that the whole family can watch it together. I recommend this film highly.
Year of Release—1986