Best pal Alex (Burt Bulos) decides the group will pool resources to help out Sin. Their available cash supply, however, comes up far short; the teens try other, variously on-the-level methods to score the necessary dough. Meanwhile, Sin puts pressure on his baffled girlfriend, Teri (Mia Suh), to join him in a spur-of-the-moment road trip to San Francisco.
As both writer and director, feature debutante Chris Chan Lee lets “Yellow” jump all over the place, without the thematic daring or stylistic bravado that might have lent such arbitrariness an internal logic. While numerous small
moments sport youthful energy and humor, they often run smack against poorly judged serious ones. Typically offbeat yet unsuccessful is the late juxtaposition of a tense, potentially violent second store robbery with broad comedy as Sin’s concerned mother (Emily Kuroda) consults an over-the-top spiritualist (Amy Hill).
Character development amongst the leads is spotty; there’s too much of Sin’s nervous gloom (overdone by Chung), and virtually no insight into fellow travelers like shy Janet (Lela Lee). Adult figures are painted in terms of
first-generation-immigrant stereotypes — sometimes with deliberate parodic intent. The scrutiny of larger racial attitudes promised by “Yellow’s” title never comes through.
Throwaway comic bits often demonstrate an assurance lacking in more dramatically important scenes; performances and lensing follow that same pattern. Other tech aspects are adequate. One consistent element is
soundtracking of some excellent indie-rock songs by Asian-American-led bands; their propulsive energy suggests the larkier, more enjoyable youth pic “Yellow”
might have been if its ambitions had been kept manageable.