Korean American adoptee, Jenny Mason, is kicked out of her Midwestern family at the age of 14 when some hanky-pankiness goes on between her and her adoptive brother, Joe. We join her story several years later as she hustles caffeine at an espresso bar in Manhattan. Jenny wanders through life in an apathetic haze, letting her turbulent childhood keep her from forming solid relationships with other people, especially men whom she insists on keeping encounters to simple one night stands in order to maintain an emotional distance from everyone. But the sudden boot she gets from her home by her roommate who wants the apartment to herself and her boyfriend finds Jenny having to not only face her abandonment issues, but having to reconnect with society for a bit in order to find a new living situation. And she does so successfully in finding new roommate, Bea, an Asian American model/college student who is more than happy to share her apartment with Jenny. The two become close and Bea encourages Jenny’s interest in photography. In turn, Jenny stands as a shoulder to cry on for Bea as she’s overwhelmed by her parents expectations of her, as well as treated like crap by her boyfriend who merely fancies dating a model. The two try to keep each other up and Jenny slowly starts to come out of her shell as she takes interest in some of the people living in her new apartment building, including a hunky neighbor who takes a liking to her. But just as Jenny’s life starts to resemble any kind of happiness, in comes long lost adoptive brother Joe to give their awkward lovelife another shot.
If you’re looking for a fun, heartwarming movie to spend a couple hours with, this one isn’t it. “Tie a Yellow Ribbon” gives us a peek at what it’s like to be an Asian American female and it looks like no kind of fun that I know. Not that this is a total me-oh-my downer, but there’s a melancholic tone here that doesn’t let up throughout the entire picture. And, much like how Jenny distanced herself from others, I also felt that the movie was doing the same thing with me – holding me at a distance and refusing to fully engage me. I enjoyed “Tie a Yellow Ribbon” in that it addresses issues rarely voiced in film – issues of identity crisis and depression among Asian American women to be more specific. But I could never really cut through the melancholy in order to get to like the characters as much as I would’ve enjoyed to. A nice first feature nevertheless.