Thursday, September 16, 2021

Blue Bayou Review: An Oscar-Worthy Drama About Family And Circumstances

Justin Chon	Justin Chon	...	Antonio Alicia Vikander	Alicia Vikander	...	Kathy Mark O'Brien	Mark O'Brien	...	Ace Rest of cast listed alphabetically: Randy Austin	Randy Austin	...	TSA Officer Brad Blanchard	Brad Blanchard	...	Randy Chris Bosarge	Chris Bosarge	...	Ice Agent Martin Bats Bradford	Martin Bats Bradford	...	Lajon Adam Brazy	Adam Brazy	...	Judge Tracy Brotherton	Tracy Brotherton	...	Flight Attendant Ron Centanni	Ron Centanni	...	Doctor Emory Cohen	Emory Cohen		 Sylvia Grace Crim	Sylvia Grace Crim	...	Sylvia / Police Clerk Vondie Curtis-Hall	Vondie Curtis-Hall		 Rhonda Johnson Dents	Rhonda Johnson Dents	...	Jackie Divine Prince Ty Emmecca	Divine Prince Ty Emmecca	...	Airport Traveler Alexander Garcia	Alexander Garcia	...	Gulag Renell Gibbs	Renell Gibbs	...	Reggie Jim Gleason	Jim Gleason	...	Doctor Keegan

Release date: September 17, 2021
Running time: 117 minutes
Director/Writer: Justin Chon
Cast: Justin Chon, Alicia Vikander, Mark O’Brien, Linh Dan Pham, Emory Cohen, Sydney Kowalske

An official selection of the 2021 Cannes Film Festival from award-winning writer/director Justin Chon, BLUE BAYOU is the moving and timely story of an uniquely American family fighting for their future. Antonio LeBlanc (Chon), a Korean adoptee raised in a small town in the Louisiana bayou, is married to the love of his life, Kathy (Alicia Vikander) and step-dad to their beloved daughter, Jessie (Sydney Kowalske). Struggling to make a better life for his family, he must confront the ghosts of the past when he discovers that he could be deported from the only country he has ever called home.

Sage Kim Gray	...	Girl / Antonio's Mother Sydney Kowalske	Sydney Kowalske	...	Jessie Suzette Lange	Suzette Lange	...	airport traveler Susan McPhail	Susan McPhail	...	Susanne Linh Dan Pham	Linh Dan Pham	...	Parker Sean Richmond	Sean Richmond	...	DHS Agent #2 Geraldine Singer	Geraldine Singer	...	Dawn Landry K. Steele	K. Steele	...	Nurse Toby Vitrano	Toby Vitrano	...	Merk Britton Webb	Britton Webb	...	Ice Supervisor Ned Yousef	Ned Yousef	...	Mexican Worker Gordon Dexheimer	Gordon Dexheimer	...	Airport Traveler (uncredited) Produced by  Justin Bursch	...	executive in charge of production Alex Chi	...	co-producer Ashley Contino	...	post supervisor Zev Foreman	...	executive producer Greta Fuentes	...	co-producer Poppy Hanks	...	producer Ali Jazayeri	...	co-producer Charles D. King	...	producer Alan Pao	...	co-producer Kim Roth	...	producer Eddie Rubin	...	executive producer Yira Vilaro	...	co-producer
Justin Chon took on a lot for this film, but I have to imagine this was a very personal story for him to tell.  I loved his character, despite being frustrated with some of his choices, Antonio felt so uniquely American.  This Asian man with a thick New Orleans accent, tatted up and trying to do right by his family was such an amalgamation of ideas and influences that you can't help but be intrigued.  And Vikander as Kathy was a similarly interesting and deep character, the rock in the family who deals with the family's financial troubles but also the inherent racism that follows her and Antonio's love.  But the real star of this film is Kowalske as Jessie, who shows a comfort that you rarely see in young actors.  She is so natural in this role and is responsible for one of the most powerful scenes I have seen in any film.  This cast of mismatched but perfectly fitting characters really forms the heart and soul of this film, and their troubles, triumphs, and love fuel this story on.  

And the story of Blue Bayou layers the themes on but leaves plenty of surprises for the viewer to experience.  You never feel like it is intentionally holding information back from you, but new revelations occur throughout the film.  And this helps to fuel the family's plight but also gives you greater insight into the complicated person that is Antonio.  And these also allow the characters around the film to grow as well, giving depth to all the people that we meet.  But on top of this story, the film is just a beautiful piece of cinema.  The movie is in a 4:3 format, which puts the characters front and center.  And there are clever little touches, like a blurred look to some of the shots, that give it almost a dreamlike state.  And through this all, there is an amazing soundtrack.  The film has deep string notes during the dramatic parts and light clarinet during the happier times; they add layers to this film especially because much of this movie is communicated nonverbally.  

Blue Bayou is a powerful drama that packs a lot of information into an understated, beautiful, and gut wrenching film.  The movie looks at America through a unique lens, focusing on the life you build but also on how others treat you.  Justin Chon has created an absolute masterpiece, with so many themes packed into this story.  I really loved how they never felt overwhelming; the circumstances that the family is confronted with do, but the overall messages themselves are layered on and communicated to the viewer without overloading you.  And there are so many messages in this film, from immigration, to inherent bias, to the impediments that are placed in people's way, and to race and identity.  This movie is something that will speak to so many right now, when it seems that as a country there is a trend to not value hardworking people who call America home.  

Blue Bayou is a powerful drama that looks at race, family, love, and life through understated cinematography, complicated characters, beautiful music, and a gut-wrenching, uniquely American story.

Watch it.

Directed by  Justin Chon	Writing Credits (in alphabetical order)   Justin Chon
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Blue Bayou is in theaters on September 17, 2021.  For showtimes, click here.

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