Blue Bayou. Wow. Where do I even begin? Justin Chon has brought us a fantastic film about an immigration issue I don’t believe many Americans even realize exists and I’m still processing it.
Inspired partly by the deportation story of Adam Crapser; Justin Chon plays Antonio LeBlanc, a Korean adoptee in a small town of the Louisiana Bayou. Antonio is married to the love of his life, Kathy (Alicia Vikander). He is helping to raise his stepdaughter, Jessie, while Kathy has another one on the way. Unfortunately, Antonio is a product of his environment; having been abandoned by his adoptive parents just six months after being brought over from Korea. He grew up in the foster system, and was raised by abusive foster parents. A story that is unfortunately all too common.
Being young and dumb, Antonio was involved in boosting motorcycles and was charged with two felonies for non-violent crimes. This record, however, makes it difficult for Antonio to find legit work in order to support his growing family. While shopping in the grocery store, Kathy’s ex and Jessie’s father, Ace (Mark O’Brien), a New Orleans Police Officer confronts Kathy about being allowed to see his daughter after abandoning her years earlier. Antonio gets into a physical altercation with Ace’s racist partner Denny (Emory Cohen), he’s arrested again; but this time at the height of ICE investigations. It turns out that even though no charges were filed, ICE did an investigation. They figured out that even though Antonio was legally adopted, the correct paperwork was never filed. So now, Antonio faces deportation.
Highlighting Issues That Aren’t Brought Up Enough
Some may feel this film is melodramatic, but for me, Blue Bayou is putting a spotlight on an immigration issue that is pushed under the rug. Sadly, a significant number of the 1970s and 80s babies that were brought over to our country never had the correct paperwork filed. So, regardless of how long they have been in the United States, regardless of marital status, etc. The law that was put into place in 2000 does not protect anyone adopted and brought over before then.
This story is beautiful, gripping, tragic, frustrating, and inspiring. Vikander was exquisite in her portrayal of Kathy. Chon was charming and had me rooting for him the entire time. I was not expected to sob while watching this film, but there I was crying into my shirt as my heart broke for Antonio, his family, and those just like him.
At the end of Blue Bayou, Chon includes photos of actual Asian adoptees who have either been deported or whose cases are pending thanks to our broken immigration system.
Do not turn away from Blue Bayou, watch it and hopefully you, like me, will be inspired to help create the change we so desperately need.
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