Blue Bayou is the inspiring story of a unique American family who is battling for their future. Chon, a Korean adoption reared in a Louisiana bayou village, is married to Kathy, the joy of his life, and stepfather to Jessie, their adored daughter. Faced with the prospect of being deported from the only land he has ever called home, he must confront the demons of his past to build a better life for his family.
What Should You Know Before Watching?
Blue Bayou is distinguished by the sincerity and serenity of its performances. Ante Cheng and Matthew Chuang’s camera often remains in close-ups of the characters’ faces to give the audience a peek into their heads. There’s never a wide shot of a character’s face in this character-driven picture; it’s always a close-up. Alicia Vikander, who made her big-screen comeback this year with A24’s historical epic The Green Knight and now with Blue Bayou, produced an often emotionally charged performance.
The understated performance by Justin Chon has a lot of heart. Sydney Kowalske, who plays Jessie, the family’s little daughter, is a standout newcomer, and one of her sequences will have you in tears. The film was filmed on 16mm film, and although some of the pictures are stunning, others are disturbing. This is especially true when the film employs “shaky cam” in some moments to highlight the characters’ frazzled mental state, which sounds fine on paper but fails to translate on film.
Director Chon had high expectations, but he was only met twice in the film. The music in Blue Bayou complements the film’s emotional moments beautifully. Alicia Vikander and the rest of the ensemble deliver strong performances in Blue Bayou, featuring stunning visuals and an emotional climax that will break your heart.
Taken alone, many scenes and motifs in Blue Bayou are exemplary for how they delve into the contradictions of the adopted immigrant experience, from the subtle racism of Kathy’s disapproving mother to the constant abandonment he experienced as a child to the desperate turn to criminality that marks an inescapable cycle of poverty, all in a country that was supposed to be a better life than the one his birth mother had to separate him forcefully.
A long shot will be taken of Antonio as he tries to make sense of the jumbled pieces of his life and how they came together to leave him disconnected from his native culture and place. Only the tenuous grasp of his adopted family prevents him from sinking into nihilism and despair, which is symbolized by dream sequences of drowning and isolation in a lonely bog. These are intense scenes that stand on their own, but as the film devolves into full-on melodrama due to the rising strains on Antonio and Kathy, the scenes become even more compelling.
Therefore, I think it’s a real shame that the film tries so hard to paint a full picture of Antonio’s life that it ends up bouncing about between personalities and stories that, while each one is interesting on its own, don’t add together. A relationship with a Vietnamese-American cancer patient (Linh-Dan Pham) examines the differences between immigrating with your original family and being adopted into a white family. Examine Antonio’s past, including his time as a child abuse victim and a motorbike thief.
When And Where Is It Releasing?
Blue Bayou is hitting the theatres on September 17, 2021.