When Antonio, an adopted child of Korean origin who grows up in a US family, comes into conflict with the police over something minor, he unexpectedly lands in a detention center.
BLUE BAYOU reminded me of MOONLIGHT. Not because the film puts marginalized people at the center, making them figures to identify with, but because of the big range of feelings and (colored) moods which Justin Cho as director and protagonist interweaves in his exuberant, heart-wrenchingly sad, incredibly maddening yet warm-hearted tale. It‘s about Antonio LeBlanc (played by Chon), whose life can be described as being precarious but happy. He works in a small tattoo shop and is looking for a better paid job, he loves his wife Kathy (Alicia Vikander), who is expecting a child from him. His relationship with his roughly seven year old stepdaughter Jessie (Sydney Kowalske) is very close, maybe also because Antonio grew up as a Korean adoptee with American parents and is familiar with the fear of loss and connection.
Chon sets the idyll in the warmest southern state colors and incorporates magical sunsets whenever he can, yet it is clear from the start that it will only take something small to destroy the happiness. Instead, a storm comes: due to a trifle and an old jealousy (Kathy‘s ex is a cop), Antonio lands in custody – and then in a detention center. Due to a legal loophole, he could be deported, even if he grew up as the child of American parents and has absolutely no connection to Korea. He now has to prove that he‘s a “valuable“ citizen in court. But Antonio has a record, he broke off contact with his abusive adoptive parents a long time ago, and how is he supposed to get money to pay for the lawyer?
BLUE BAYOU portrays relationships and feelings in a precise and believable way. From Antonio‘s anger, his desperation and his forlornness between one culture that doesn‘t want him and one that he doesn‘t know, Kathy‘s feelings of alienation toward a self-involved husband and Jessie‘s fear of losing another father. But there are also moments of connectedness. At the same time, Chon doesn‘t skip any melodramatic turns, he stages with great force and maximal emotions. When Antonio doesn‘t know what to do, he races with his Ducati in the night. When Kathy sings “Blue Bayou“ to Antonio‘s Vietnamese friend who has cancer at a family gathering, it‘s a moment when you as a audience member could easily disengage because of the manipulativeness. Or you could go along with it.
Translation: Elinor Lewy
USA 2021, 119 min
Director: Justin Chon
Author: Justin Chon
DOP: Ante Cheng, Matthew Chuang
Montage: Reynolds Barney
Music: Roger Suen
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Cast: Justin Chon, Alicia Vikander, Mark O'Brien, Brad Blanchard
- OV Original version
- OmU Original with German subtitles
- OmeU Original with English subtitles
ALLE ANGABEN OHNE GEWÄHR.
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