Set in Louisiana, the film follows a Korean-American man named Antonio (Justin Chon). Antonio lives with his partner Kathy (Alicia Vikander), who is currently pregnant, and his step-daughter Jessie (Sydney Kowalske). Right at the start of the film, we learn that Antonio is struggling to make ends meet for his family, and each day he carries a mysterious and dark past.
While Antonio is shopping for groceries with his family, an argument occurs, which attracts the attention of the nearby police. From this, Antonio’s background is investigated, and he is advised that he must be deported and forced to leave his family and country. Now Antonio is forced to fight the legal system with all his might to try and stay with his family. While battling, Antonio is also forced to revisit his past life and confront all the hurts from his upbringing as a young man.
For those who are not aware, this film was directed by Justin Chon, who also serves as the leading actor. Thanks to the consistent close-up shots, Justin Chon captures emotions and facial expressions perfectly. Every moment of sadness, heartfelt tension, drama- you name it- nothing is missed from being shown on the screen. It’s truly tremendous and impossible to ignore while watching.
Leading performances are tremendous and applaud worthy. Justin Chon and Alicia Vikander are highly convincing on-screen as a couple in love and fighting with all their strength and might to keep Antonio with them. Some characters are still extremely likeable even when they do wrong things or fail in life. The themes of both family and love are shown strongly throughout the film. Young actress Sydney Kowalske also delivered a powerful and memorable performance which was a delight for her first role in cinema.
Pacing, for the most part, is great, and the film gets underway fairly quickly. The story becomes even more gripping once the threat over Antonio’s life is introduced, and we see the effects it has on his family. One aspect that concerned me while viewing is the introduction of what felt like a side plot with another character that Antonio encounters. While this subplot is still powerful and touching, I couldn’t help think this was a slight distraction from the main plot. The film slightly drags in the third act before landing what I deem to be a highly heartfelt conclusion which was also unpredictable.
Overall, this is a solid drama film and easily one of the best films I’ve seen this year. It’s a touching and gripping story that truly broke me as it focused on family, overcoming one’s past and the heartbreaking topic of deportation. Blue Bayou is filled with tremendous and highly believable performances from both Justin Chon and Alicia Vikander. Also serving as a director, Justin Chon has adored capturing many wonderful moments of tension and character’s emotions, all of which truly touched my heart. There’s very little I can say negative about a film like this, and it certainly comes highly recommended for those seeking a new drama film.