Blue Bayou Review: Justin Chon’s Immigrant Story Finds Success When Moving Beyond Realism

Blue Bayou Review: Justin Chon’s Immigrant Story Finds Success When Moving Beyond Realism
After Antonio (Justin Chon) is wrongfully arrested in front of his wife Kathy (Alicia Vikander) and step-daughter Jessie (Sydney Kowalske), he’s surprised to learn he’s been flagged for deportation. Due to his adoptive parent’s oversight, Antonio, who was born in Korea but has lived in Louisiana since he was a toddler, doesn’t have citizenship. Justin Chon’s Blue Bayou is an amalgam of real stories like Antonio’s, among which there are thousands.

Blue Bayou is a successor to the elegiac modes of Moonlight (2016) and The Florida Project (2017) that aestheticized life on the margins in the American south. This style—naturalistic performances, handheld cameras, and soft focus—is intimate, touching, and completely familiar. But as Antoni’s life unravels through the second half, Chon slips from a delivery that is customarily moody to something almost overwrought, closer to melodrama. This is also when the film gets better.
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