#REVIEW: “BLUE BAYOU”
Review by George Kozera for Mr. Will Wong
Writer, Director and Star Justin Chon plays Antonio, an adopted Korean-American Tattoo Artist trying very hard to make ends meet in the emotionally-charged BLUE BAYOU. His wife, Kathy (Oscar winner Alicia Vikander) is pregnant with his child and he is a loving stepdaughter to Jesse (Sydney Kowalske). Unable to find a job due to his criminal record for stealing motorcycles, he and his family continue to be hassled by Jesse’s biological father, and local police officer, Ace (Mark O’Brien). When arrested on a trumped charge by Ace’s partner Denny (Emory Cohen, so memorable in his role in “Brooklyn”), we learn that Antonio doesn’t have the proper naturalization American citizenship papers on file and he faces deportation by ICE.
I am in such a quandary about BLUE BAYOU that I must write about my reactions in two ways: first as an audience member and then as a Critic.
I fell in love with this Movie within its first 30 seconds with the exquisite opening shot and had my heart broken immediately afterwards when I watched Antonio, with his stepdaughter in tow, mercilessly grilled during an interview for a mechanic job, not about his criminal record but his Asian roots. The family dynamics is strong and the loving bond between Antonio and Jesse is beautifully illustrated. Despite financial hardships and harassment from Ace, her ex-husband, Kathy is strong and formidable. I was stunned to learn about the loophole, that exists to this day, that makes adopted Americans still eligible to be deported to their country of birth. Chon’s performance is nuanced, heartfelt and vulnerable. Vikander once again shows her incredible range and makes us yearn to see her in many more movies. Kowalske virtually steals every scene she is in from her more established stars. The Cinematography by Ante Cheng and Matthew Chuang is luscious and worthy of Academy Award recognition.
BLUE BAYOU can also be compared to an overladen desserts buffet table with too many beautiful options to choose from and I wish this movie stuck with the basic storytelling and not overwhelm the audience with too many options. Whereas the Cinematography is stunning, Director Chon’s decision to film an abundance of scenes that do not advance the story feels self-indulgent and prolongs this already too-long movie. Whereas I enjoyed the subplot of the friendship between Antonio and Parker (Linh Dan Pham), a Vietnamese nurse who has Cancer, it is superfluous and adds little to the story Chon wants to tell, perhaps, other than to give his character another perspective of his Asian heritage. That said, it is also the setting of my favourite scene in BLUE BAYOU when Vikander sings a haunting rendition of the titular Linda Ronstadt classic at Parker’s family picnic. THAT is a goosebumps moment. Finally, there is an airport scene ridden with every overwrought cliché ever filmed, which includes Ross and Rachel’s in the series finale of “Friends”. It diminishes the power I’m sure Chon wanted to impart after building everything up so well.
Ultimately, the Moviegoer in me has decided to ignore the Critic in me. BLUE BAYOU moved me and I can’t recommend it strongly enough.
Focus Features release BLUE BAYOU, now in theatres.
*Please ensure you exercise caution in observing COVID-19 protocols if seeing this in-theatre.*