Blue Bayou Review - Poignant, Stirring, Heartfelt

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Blue Bayou, from Focus Features, brings to the screen a stirring heartfelt love story that challenges convention as a Korean American, adopted thirty years earlier, is faced with the possibility of deportation and the loss of his family.

We meet Antonio LeBlanc, played by Justin Chon, a Korean adoptee, at a job interview. We clearly see the sign in the Help Wanted sign in the window, and we see Antonio, clearly Korean with a Louisianan accent, we hear him talk about growing up in a small town outside the bayou. We also hear Antonio has spent time in prison for grand theft. Even with his skills as a mechanic, his two strikes make it impossible.

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With him at the interview his stepdaughter Jessie, played by Sydney Kowalske. Suddenly the two are bolting from the interview and racing toward the hospital. We meet Kathy, played by Alicia Vikander, who is having an ultrasound and just before it was over, Antonio rushes in and we see the two are very much in love.

The next day, Antonio offers to take Jessie to school. The two decide to play hooky and have a daddy-daughter bonding day. Life, for the family, is a struggle but they are making it better. It is obvious that Antonio can be a little irresponsible at times which makes Kathy the enforcer in the parenting.

While shopping, the two begin to have a louder than usual discussion about how she would like to be the fun, playful parent and he could take on the role of the heavy, the one who is forced to disappoint and burst the bubble as reality dictates.

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Simultaneously, Kathy's ex-husband, Ace, played by Mark O'Brien, who happens to a police officer in this tiny town arrives in the store as his partner, Denny, played by Emery Cohen, is shopping. Drawn to the voices of his ex-wife, the situation quickly escalates, with Denny exerting all his racist hate the uniform will allow and hauling Antonio off to jail.

By the time Kathy arrives with her mother, Dawn, played by Geraldine Singer, she finds out he was shipped to ICE. He is scheduled for deportation.

As this is America, we find he will be given the chance to a fair hearing to determine if he should be permitted status to stay in the country where he has lived his entire life.

Of course, this situation, which clearly constitutes as trouble as it shows up in uniform and triplicate, creates unbearable stress. The cost of a lawyer, played by Vondie Curtis-Hall, drives him back to the life he shelved. And when he did secure the retainer and didn't explain to Kathy where the money came from, the honest bond they had shattered.

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Slowly this fight to stay in the United States with the family he loved and who lived him, the life they were building began to be undercut by the system.

The lawyer explains to Antonio he needs to have character witnesses and the woman who raised him, his foster mother, someone he hasn't seen in more than a decade would be helpful. Having to confront this time in his past, on the chance he may be able to stay, proves too much, the wounds are too deep, and the scab from the scars still after all this time too fresh.

Blue Bayou is bursting with truth and presents a moving and timely story of a uniquely American family fighting for their future. The film highlights a segment of immigrant gap population who arrived in U.S. from Asian, adopted, had full lives and then deported as illegals.

Packed with emotion, the cast deliver gripping, poignant, and authentic character driven performances. Heartbreaking and resonating. Without giving away the ending, the film's young star, Sydney Kowalske steals the scene.

An official selection of the 2021 Cannes Film Festival Blue Bayou premiered in competition and is nominated for Independent Spirit Award for Best Cinematography. See it.

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Country: USA.

Language: English.

Runtime: 112minutes.

Directed By: Justin Chon.

Written By: Justin Chon.

Producers: Charles D. King, Kim Roth, Poppy Hanks, Justin Chon.

Starring: Justin Chon, Alicia Vikander, Mark O'Brien, Linh Dan Pham, Emory Cohen, Sydney Kowalske, Vondie Curtis-Hall.

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