In an almost poetically told, yet devastatingly true deportation drama BLUE BAYOU Justin Chon talks about how the USA deals with migrants. We reveal in our review how touching this film is.
OT: Blue Bayou (USA/CAN 2021)
At the age of two, Antonio LeBlanc (Justin Chon) came to the United States from South Korea, where he was adopted by a white couple in a small town on the waters of Louisiana. A few years ago, the taciturn man, who came from a humble background, had problems with the law because he earned his money by stealing and reselling motorcycles. Now he leads a law-abiding, inconspicuous life as a tattoo artist who loves his wife’s daughter Kathy (Alicia Vikander) as much as if she were his own child – even if little Jessie (Sydney Kowalske) at the thought of Antonio and Kathy having a child together Expect occasional bouts of jealousy. But that’s a luxury problem compared to what Kathy’s ex, the police officer Ace (Mark O’Brien), and his racist colleague Denny (Emory Cohen) throw at him…
The specific story of “Blue Bayou” is an invention of director, lead actor and screenwriter Justin Chon, but similar fates happen all the time in the USA. And as soon as you detach yourself from the legal loophole that is so relevant to this act, due to which adopted people were not granted citizenship for decades, and mentally insert other legally immature situations, such fates happen all the time in Europe. Here in United Kingdom. People suddenly go from being a member of our society to cases of deportation, being sent to a country that has become foreign to them, was never really at home to them or is even hostile to them. Chon, known, among other things, from the “Twilight” series and the American scion of a family with South Korean roots, does not devote himself to this material with the completely understandable anger that fills Spike Lee’s more recent films Addressing racism as experienced by the black population in the USA. Likewise, he does not address the injustices, gaping legal loopholes and shocking inhumanities that the Asian American community experiences in general and with which non-naturalized adoption cases are specifically addressed, in a didactic and admonishing tone. Although both approaches would be understandable.
Antonio (Justin Chon) wants to stay with his family (Alicia Vikander and Sydney Kowalske) in any case…
Instead, Chon places us right in the middle of this individual fate. He achieves immense concern through his close proximity to Antonio LeBlanc’s life, which is riddled with dilemmas: Antonio and his wife, an exhausted, tired, loving mother and wife, played realistically by Alicia Vikander, who wants to realize herself and sometimes forgives her partner too much and have been burdened too much, have decided that they no longer want to be a one-income household. In order to be able to offer her children more and to give Kathy the opportunity to be more than a housewife and mother again, she returns to her old job. But as soon as Antonio is positioned as a troublemaker by two sleazy police officers due to personal antipathies and reported to the immigration authorities, a committed lawyer (Vondie Curtis-Hall), who is annoyed by the system, says: US family lawyers consider single male breadwinners to be more valuable members of society – if they Misses can feed themselves, the man can leave…
“In ‘Blue Bayou’, Justin Chon puts us right in the middle of an individual’s fate. He achieves immense concern through his close proximity to Antonio LeBlanc’s life, which is riddled with dilemmas.”
With his hands and feet literally tied, Antonio drifts through a brackish social and legal system filled with such duplicity. Right from the start, Chon plays his protagonist as a morally downtrodden passive, someone who has been taught all his life that he should stay on the sidelines and hide if he doesn’t want to get into trouble. As soon as the noose of racist mechanisms of the US justice system wraps around him, his basic facial expression is even a long expression with eyes that look as if they would fill with tears of despair at any second – even if Antonio arches his spine and the vague impression there is a desire to stand up for yourself.
“Blue Bayou” presents us with images of breathtaking beauty…
But Chon’s performance as Antonio isn’t just a self-pity parade. With the minimal facial expressions of Ryan Gosling in “Drive” or “The Place Beyond the Pines”, in which the slightest twitching of the corners of the mouth or wrinkles in the eyes speak volumes, Chon also plays an exemplary, loving but also careless stepfather who also sometimes abuses his stepdaughter takes him out of school for a day to prove to her that he won’t forget her, or sometimes annoys her, just to get her out of her sad mood. The unbridled happiness that Antonio feels in such moments, or when he is invited to a garden party by the local Vietnamese community by his acquaintance Parker (great: Linh Dan Pham) and he briefly feels at home and safe among people with similar fates, even if The fact that their customs and their food are foreign to him is shown by the smallest movements in Chon’s face. And yet they have an overwhelming effect. Antonio’s real-life story is filtered through a “bluesy” lens: In the best Bayou style, Chon does not present this material as a rough, harsh, dirty drama. But as a bitter, melancholic inventory that savors the smallest details of happiness and sighs and lyrically tackles the masses of unhappiness.
“In the best Bayou style, Chon does not present this material as a rough, harsh, dirty drama. But as a bitter, melancholic inventory that savors the smallest details of happiness and sighs and lyrically tackles the masses of unhappiness.”
Behind the camera, Matthew Chuang and Ante Cheng capture the poorest corners of New Orleans as a simple area that is full of magic at and after sunset. Chon and his editor Reynolds Barney repeatedly blur any sense of time in montages, so that in happy moments time seems to stand still, but you are also always shocked to realize how much closer Antonio is suddenly to the impending deportation. There are magic and curses in the air of this drama – and in the end credits you imagine numerous angry curses that are intended to affect those who are responsible for the system of injustice portrayed in “Blue Bayou”.
Conclusion: “Blue Bayou” is a shocking, movingly and beautifully told drama of injustice, sadly and beautifully staged and played with sorrowful stoicism.
“Blue Bayou” can be seen in USA cinemas from March 10, 2022.