Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Blue Bayou - Movie Review

The Movie: Blue Bayou

The Director: Justin Chon

The Cast: Justin Chon, Alicia Vikander, Mark O’Brien, Linh Dan Pham, Emory Cohen

The Story: 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.

The Review:
What a powerful and timely story Justin Chon has created and filled with outstanding performances. Chon wrote, directed, and stars in this latest feature and the filmmaker continues to show growth in just about every aspect of the movie making process. The movie focuses on his character Antonio, a Korean born man who was adopted at a young age and has only known a life in the United States. This leads to Chon highlighting the current and mostly under the radar crisis that is happening right now as the government is deporting thousands of people who were previously brought to the states through adoption utilizing loopholes in sorely outdated immigration laws.

Chon covers a lot of other ground as well including Antonio's struggles with living as a felon, a step dad, an Asian American, and as a target for police brutality all of which is probably more common than you might think and not what you typically see from characters on the silver screen. This dose of modern reality is hard hitting and yet somehow relatable which goes back to the power of the performances from both Chon and Alicia Vikander who plays Antonio's wife Kathy. The two are fantastic together and Vikander proves once again why she is one of the more talented actors working today.

Fans of the Doom Patrol TV series may notice Sydney Kowalske who plays the young Clara Steele and I am only mentioning this because I was thoroughly impressed with her work in this movie as Antonio's step daughter Jessie and had to see if she had done anything else prior. This young lady is responsible for a lot of the more emotional moments in the movie and especially during a very important scene at the story's climax. Antonio may be the primary subject of this particular tale, but I think Jessie might just be its heart and soul.

There's a side story in the film that I don't feel was completely necessary although Linh Dan Pham's performance as a woman dealing with a terminal illness makes these moments completely worthwhile. I do feel like the movie is a bit long and could have benefitted from a bit more time in the editing room although overall I am happy with the final product. This might be Justin Chon's best effort yet both in front of and behind the camera and as an actor, he has come a long way since his days as Eric Yorkie in the Twilight movies or as the rebellious Sid Park in Benson Lee's Seoul Searching.

The final thing I'll mention about this movie and it's certainly not the least thing I would mention is just how beautiful it looks on screen. There's an ethereal quality to it that gives the story a sort of dark fairy tale quality to it especially during Antonio's flashback scenes. Don't get me wrong, the movie is firmly rooted in reality although Chon makes you wish that the darker aspects were not nearly as much a part of our world as they are. To emphasize this point and as the credits begin to role, Chon shows us real life examples of the deportation that have been and re currently taking place around the country and I think that's about as much of an exclamation point he could ever add to a story like this.

The Verdict:
Blue Bayou is powerful storytelling highlighted by strong performances from the entire cast. A little heavy and a little long, but the payoff is definitely worth the effort. If this is the type of filmmaking we can expect from Justin Chon, I am all in and looking forward to seeing what's next.

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