Blue Bayou is a film written, directed, produced and starring Justin Chon. If a film like this cannot be defined as a passion project, then I don’t know why such a definition exists. It’s clear that Chon threw himself into this project because he felt he had to send a strong message, a political message that definitely goes against the wind that has blown in the United States since Obama was replaced by Trump, and I fear that things haven’t changed much with Biden’s entry into the White House.
Blue Bayou is most certainly a political film. This is also demonstrated by the ending with which the director informs us about the real people who are in the same situation as the protagonist of the film: born in Korea and adopted when he was three years old in 1988, Antonio LeBlanc (Justin Chon) risks being deported as a non-US citizen due to some administrative irregularities in the period in which he arrived in the United States. Apparently, tens of thousands of people in such a situation have already been deported in recent years, and many more face the same fate.
Chon with his work wants to talk about this problem in the hope of sensitizing a public opinion that for too long has been accustomed to thinking in black and white and having too elementary opinions on immigration and integration. And for this I can only appreciate Blue Bayou, its intentions, and the message that it sends loud and clear. It’s impossible not to understand the meaning of the film, so much is declared and expressed several times in its two hours of duration.
And perhaps this is the only real criticism that can be raised against the movie, given that Blue Bayou is a drama that does too much to bring the audience to tears (for the record, it succeeded with me). This means that there are many plot elements and characters that feel a bit redundant. One has the feeling that everything could have been said with a little more tact, with fewer metaphors explained and re-explained (above all, the water lilies that have roots even if it’s hard to see them, as well as these people who are 100% American but who were born in other parts of the world), and with fewer tear-jerking elements (the cancer patient played by Linh Dan Pham, the divided family, child abuse, infanticides, crime…).
But, I repeat, I can only admire a decidedly courageous political act which depicts a part of the United States which is racist, bigoted, and violent, with devastated families and in which ethnic minorities have no hope of improving their social conditions.
The cast did a phenomenal job, especially Alicia Vikander who’s excellent in the role of Antonio’s desperate wife and Mark O’Brien and Emory Cohen in the role of racist cops. Unfortunately, it’s easy to predict that few Americans will watch this film, but I recommend it without a doubt. Ciao!