Currently in theatres from writer/director Justin Chon and Focus Features comes the story of a man trying to make his life work for those he loves on BLUE BAYOU.
Antonio LeBlanc (Justin Chon) was adopted from his home country of Korea and currently lives in the outskirts of New Orleans with wife Kathy (Alicia Vikander) and stepdaughter Jessie (Sydney Kowalske). Kathy is pregnant so Antonio is doing his best to find extra work besides his job at the tattoo shop.
He runs into problems because he has a criminal record, so Kathy decides to work a few hours here and there until things smooth over. Not happy about their relationship is Kathy’s mother Dawn (Geraldine Singer) and Jessie’s biological father police officer Ace (Mark O’Brien) who is not happy that Jessie will not see him.
Running into Antonio and Kathy at the store, Ace is with his partner Denny (Emory Cohen) and a scuffle breaks out all incited by Denny. Once at the police station, Kathy tries to bail him out only to be told that ICE was now involved. That’s when the couple hires Barry Boucher (Vondie Curtis-Hall) to fight everything that has happened.
When Antonio hears what it will take to retain Boucher, he makes decisions he thinks are best for the family. He also meets Parker Nguyen (Linh Dan Pham), a woman who is also being pushed to her life limits yet still wants to help Antonio discover a little bit about who he is and where his life began.
When the court date comes up, Antonio is nowhere to be found and the judgement for Antonio is deportation. A mistake that happened years ago and mistakes that happened today are about to change the lives of everyone.
Truths will come out, but will they come in time before the plane takes off?
Chon as Antonio is a young man trying to do right by his family. He has a history that is now catching up to him and as much as he would like to avoid it, he will no longer be able to. Chon does a wonderful job with this character and the intense emotions with a young man who does not know who he truly is. When forced to come to terms with everything, the pain is present but so is the courage to do whatever it takes to protect his family.
Vikander as Kathy is a woman who is thrilled with her family. She is supportive of what Antonio is trying to do with finding a second job to make their life easier. This character clearly loves her family and the relationship between Antonio and Jessie even with the constant ugly faces given by her own mother. Vikander’s Kathy is the center of Antonio’s world until that world is spun out of control.
Kowalske as Jessie is so dang talented that it just oozes from the film. She is a young girl that definetly has her own point of view and one of those views is that Antonio is her father, and she will accept no other. She and Antonio have a pact and even knowing what she wants, Jessie’s character cannot escape the emotions of the child that she is when the adults do stupid things. Kowalske is going to be a force to be reckoned with.
Pham as Parker has her own story to tell and sees something worthy in Antonio that he does not seem to see in himself. Allowing him to be a part of her family also gives him insight into who he is and where he has come from in a world of war. She was the delicate voice of reason in a film filled with rage.
O’Brien as Ace uses his badge and physical size to be as emotionally intimidating as he can be. He wants what he wants, and the consequences be damned, including the emotional stress Jessie is under. Coen as Denny is Ace’s guard dog gone haywire as the cause of the chain of events that are slowly destroying everything around them. Denny definetly gives good bad guy!
Curtis-Hall as Boucher does his homework and knows that everything is based on other people doing the right things to help Antonio. He did not count on having someone hell-bent continuing on a destructive path that cannot be undone.
Toby Vitrano as Merk, Altonio Jackson as Quentin aka Q, Truong Quang Tran as Quoc, Ivy Vy Le as Nicole, Sage Kim Gray as Antonio’s mother, Renell Gibbs as Reggie, Jacci Gresham as Ms. Jacci, Martin Bats Bradford as Lajon, Tyler Henry as Kamal and Susan McPhail as Susanne.
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BLUE BAYOU is the repercussions of a system that did not correct its errors regarding adoptees who live in the United States. Antonio is swept up in the anger of others, and the need to feel superior and once that ball got rolling – every mistake ever made fed into a emotional hurricane of a path.
Chon worked on the script by speaking with those who have lived through the very story he is trying to convey. He based BLUE BAYOU on those stories he heard from Korean adoptees and the Child Citizenship Act of 2000. The case of Adam Crasper is a prime example of what Chon tried to convey.
“A lot of people were adopted in the 70s and 80s. It just doesn’t make sense to me. For the case of this movie, you have somebody who is a step further than that: you already have these questions of identity from being adopted. And then, not all adoptions end well, some parents give up on their adopted kids, or they abuse them. Psychologically, I am sure it is absolutely devastating and for a lot of people who get deported, there is a high suicide rate”, said Chon in a GQ Magazine interview.
The cast brings that emotion to the forefront but also the cruelty of those around Antonio and Kathy. Acceptance does not seem to be the accepted norm among their family and friends until they meet Parker. It takes meeting someone who understanding Antonio for him to have a chance to tell his truths, no matter how painful.
The relationship between Antonio and Jessie is the one that kills me the most. I should think it would be the adults, but they clearly are out for their own best interests, so I focused on these two instead. How amazing these two actors are on the screen together and every time they have their moment to discuss how the world is treating them – it will be the last five minutes that kill me the most.
Bring tissue and heart because you will need it to get through BLUE BAYOU.
In the end – it is not where you are from but where you belong!