By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
Writer/director/actor Justin Chon has chosen to use film to reveal a very ugly flaw within US immigration laws that is only well-known to anyone who has faced a similar struggle to remain in this country. This particular law has to do with Asian immigrants who were adopted by Americans, but whose adopted parents did not seek the proper channels to get them a proper citizenship. Such is the case of the protagonist of this movie, who struggles to remain in the US with his new family for whom he has worked so hard to support. With Blue Bayou, Justin Chon delivers an eye-opening film that attempts to spread more awareness of this problem which has affected so many Asian adoptees struggling to continue living here, but have been forced to return to the country of their birth against their will.
Chon stars as Antonio LeBlanc, a Korean immigrant who was adopted by American people in Louisiana, but faced an abusive youth with his new parents. As a result, Antonio has had his legal troubles, but has gotten to a point where he has become a more productive member of society with a new loving wife (Alicia Vikander) and her daughter (Sydney Kowalske). When the complications of his new life undeservably gain the attention of the law and immigration, Antonio struggles to continue living in the United States, but can barely afford the legal expenses that are involved to help him stay in a place he now considers his home.
Justin Chon not only writes and directs a very powerful movie, he also gives an impressive performance as the protagonist of a movie that sends a tremendously important message to the people of this country. While I am aware of the situation regarding immigrants from Mexico, which usually dominates the news and politics on a nearly daily basis, I was not at all aware of the struggles of Asian-American adoptees who have been deported to their places of origin despite the lives they have established here. While this movie does lays its messages a little too thick and a bit melodramatically, it does send some valid messages that our immigration system is in much need of some serious reform.
In addition to Justin Chon, who gives a tremendous performance, Alicia Vikander gives a wonderful turn as Antonio’s wife and love Kathy, a woman struggling to support her husband and family, despite the weaknesses and problems that Antonio sometimes brings to their home. I was also certainly impressed with young actor Sydney Kowalske who stars as Jesse, Kathy’s daughter from another marriage and Antonio’s biggest supporter. This child actor shows an impressive range of emotions that her role demands and absolutely shines and shares a beautiful chemistry with Justin Chon.
While this film is not at all feel-good material, I feel that it is so important that it reaches many people to become more aware of the problems of the immigration laws of our country. It is so easy to take for granted one’s citizenship here in the US and I feel that only contributes to the problems that affect people deported from here for all the wrong reasons. Blue Bayou attempts to spread awareness of this issue, and I do wish that it succeeds in its goals.