Blue Bayou – Film Review
by Fran Winston
Directed by: Justin Chon
Starring: Justin Chon, Alicia Vikander, Mark O’Brien, Linh Dan Pham, Sydney Kowalske, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Emory Cohen
In cinemas December 3rd
Written, directed by and starring Justin Chon, this deals with a subject that many people probably aren’t aware of – the deportation of people who were adopted into America as children. In the U.S., the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 grants citizenship to all children adopted from overseas, but it does not protect anyone who turned 18 before the law was passed. As a result, thousands of people adopted before this date and who have never known any other home find themselves being thrown out of the country because their adoptive parents didn’t process their citizenship paperwork. He consulted with five adoptees who read drafts and were consulted throughout the writing process to make the factual elements of this fictional story as accurate as possible.
Chon plays Antonio LeBlanc, a Korean-American adoptee and tattoo artist living outside New Orleans with his pregnant wife Kathy (Vikander) and her daughter Jessie. His criminal record for robberies committed as a teen is holding him back from getting additional work and with another baby on the way he is feeling the strain. After a run-in with the police, his troubles are suddenly exacerbated when he is ordered to be deported from America by a judge. Despite a difficult childhood with his adoptive parents and bouncing from foster home to foster home, he had always assumed his paperwork was in order. However, once the order is issued, he is in a precarious position as all he can do is appeal it, but if he loses he can never come back to the U.S. The cost of paying his immigration lawyer also weighs heavily on him and slowly but surely the nice life he has built for himself begins to unravel as he faces an uncertain future.
Chon is a relative newcomer in filmmaking circles, and this does have some rookie mistakes. Its attempts to tug at your heartstrings are all too obvious, rather than relying on the empathy of an audience. He has also thrown in elements that seem to make no sense other than the fact he wanted to include a particularly dramatic scene, but Vikander’s performance helps elevate this.
As the credits roll, we are confronted with images of those who have already been deported or who are awaiting a decision about their deportation and this really hits home after what you have just witnessed. This is a genuinely affecting story that highlights an appalling injustice. It’s the kind of movie that has you googling the subject matter as soon as you leave the cinema and if it helps even one person then it’s done its job.