"Simple acts of kindness . . . are the flickering candles in a cavern of darkness that sustain our common humanity."
-- Chris Hedges in War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning
Rose Garcia (Eva Noblezada, a two-time Tony nominee for her performances in Broadway musicals) is a nearly 18-year-old Filipina living with her mother Priscilla (Princess Punzalan) in a run-down motel. Before he died, her father gave her his guitar and this shy teenager has been writing country music songs ever since. The two women's future in the United States is uncertain given that they are undocumented immigrants.
When Elliott (Liam Booth), who works at the local guitar store, invites Rose to go with him to Austin to see a show at a dancehall called The Broken Spoke, Priscilla flatly refuses to give her permission. But she sneaks off anyway. Up to this point, Rose has led a very sheltered life, never having kissed a boy or attended concerts in the big city. At the dancehall, she proves to be the perfect fan, totally into the music and the dancing, and appropriately starstruck by the performer, Dale Watson (playing himself).
Writer and director Diane Paragas shifts gears as she moves smoothly from Rose's slow nurturing of her dream of becoming a country music singer to the fear and helplessness that descend upon her when Priscilla is picked up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) one evening and taken to a detention center awaiting deportation. Rose is able to retrieve a few things from their apartment, including her mother's instructions that she go to live with her aunt Gail (Lea Salonga) in Austin.
"The kindnesses of others fertilize our soul — they become part of who we are, and we carry them and their love"
-- Wayne Muller in How, Then, Shall We Live?
Gail is the first of many strangers who try to help the now homeless Rose. Priscilla and Gail were estranged, so Rose barely knows this relative, and it's soon clear that her husband will not let her live with them. All her aunt can do is give her a little money.
Fortunately, Jolene (Libby Villari), the owner of the Broken Spoke, had told her to reach out if she ever needed help. Soon Rose has a room in the back of the bar where she practices her music. She helps out in the kitchen and befriends other undocumented workers until ICE shows up again and she is forced to hide.
This time Dale takes her in. He lets Rose live in his unused trailer, affirming that she has the talent to be a singer/songwriter, make a demo record, and perform in public. Watching her sing "Small Peg, Round Hole," we can see his spiritual practice of enthusiasm has nurtured her talent.
We've seen a number of movies lately in which the kindness of strangers has enabled a young woman to find her own place in the world, notably Leave No Trace and Once Upon a River. In none of these films are the challenges these young people face glossed over or minimized. We just see that good people, often having faced their own hardships, can come through for someone and make all the difference.