Blue Bayou is a film I’ve wanted to see from the moment I heard about it. It addresses immigration and the deportation of children who were adopted by Americans. My own sister adopted children late in life so this was a film that was very close to my heart. I was also intrigued because Justin Chon not only stars in the movie but also wrote the script and directed it. After watching Blue Bayou, it is clear that this film was important to Chon as well. He not only does an incredible job directing this heartbreaking movie but the entire cast is brilliant as they highlight a terrible practice in the United States and bring us a film that is all about family, love, and sacrifice.
In Blue Bayou Justin Chon stars as Antonio LeBlanc, a Korean adoptee raised in a small town in the Louisiana bayou. Antonio is married to the love of his life, Kathy (Alicia Vikander), and step-dad to their beloved daughter Jessie (Sydney Kowalske). Even though Jessie has a father, Ace (Mark O’Brien), she is closer to Antonio. With a new baby on the way, Antonio struggles to make a better life for his family. But when he discovers he could be deported from the only country he has ever known, Antonio must confront the ghosts of the past while making a new friend in a dying Vietnamese woman, Parker (Linh Dan Pham), who teaches him about strength and sacrifice.
What makes this film so heart-wrenching and beautiful is the very superb story by Justin Chon and is the key to the success of the movie. The story embraces family and sacrifice. It is clear from the very beginning how strong the family dynamics are between Antonio, his wife Kathy, and Jessie. His bond with Jessie is loving and warm and the family deeply cares about each other. The writing builds the narrative quickly, demonstrating the obstacles that they face, poverty, and how Antonio struggles to take care of his family. The story illustrates Antonio’s character without making him stereotypical or two-dimensional. Even Ace, Jessie’s natural father, is three-dimensional as we see how much he does love Jessie, even though he’s made mistakes. The story also gives us Parker who gives Antonio insight into his culture and demonstrates how strong a person can be. Every character has a purpose and place in the story and while the ending is difficult to watch, it is authentic and real to the adoptees who are facing deportation.
The scenes are beautifully shot, especially those with Antonio’s family. The direction by Justin Chon is loving and his vision clear as he makes sure the audience understands the love between Jessie and Antonio as well as Kathy and Antonio. The scenes and dialogue with Parker and her family as they introduce Antonio to a culture similar to his own are joyful. We also see that Antonio is not perfect but has demons of his own, a mother who gave him up and the way that Antonio’s memories of his mother are shot fills you with heartache for the character.
The acting is exceptional. Justin Chon’s chemistry with Alicia Vikander and the young girl who plays Jessie is incredible. The family struggles feel real and the love honest. Justin brilliantly portrays Antonio, allowing the audience to understand his motivations and feelings. Alicia Vikander’s performance is emotional, giving us a strong woman who wants the best for her family. She also does a great job singing the song that matches the title of the movie. Jessie taps into all the emotions a young child will feel when confronted with a new baby, losing a beloved father, and the chaos surrounding his deportation. She is absolutely perfect and I can only imagine how much better she will get as she grows up. Linh Dan Pham is amazing as Parker, giving a performance that is just quietly impressive. Mark O’Brien as Ace does an outstanding job of turning his character from one you dislike to someone whom you can empathize with. Not one performance is bad in this movie.
There was only one element that was puzzling to me and that was how certain scenes were shot, the cinematography. In a couple of scenes, the lights and individuals are blurry. And while it does not detract from the film, it doesn’t make sense for the story and is completely unnecessary. Overall, the film is incredible, the story is heartbreaking, and the acting is outstanding. So while the scenes are odd, they cannot detract from the overall beauty of the movie.
If you want to learn more about a difficult situation in the United States, if you love stories about family, love, and sacrifice, even when the ending is devastating, I would highly recommend this film. The film is powerful and Justin Chon deserves awards for his writing and direction, not to mention his acting in this movie. The entire cast is compelling, emotional, and magnificent in their roles. If there is any film I think should win awards this year, I believe it’s “Blue Bayou” so you should see it beforehand. It is definitely worth seeing to learn more about the adoptees and the challenge they face.
Rating: 5 out of 5 adoptees.
Official Website: Blue Bayou | Official Web Site | Trailers and Release Dates | Focus Features
An official selection of the 2021 Cannes Film Festival from award-winning writer/director Justin Chon, BLUE BAYOU is the moving and timely story of a uniquely American family fighting for their future. Antonio LeBlanc (Chon), a Korean adoptee raised in a small town in the Louisiana bayou, is married to the love of his life Kathy (Alicia Vikander) and step-dad to their beloved daughter Jessie. Struggling to make a better life for his family, he must confront the ghosts of his past when he discovers that he could be deported from the only country he has ever called home. BLUE BAYOU opens exclusively in theaters on Friday, September 17, 2021.
ONE-LINER: As a Korean-American man raised in the Louisiana bayou works hard to make a life for his family, he must confront the ghosts of his past as he discovers that he could be deported from the only country he has ever called home.