Blue Bayou review – painful drama about the US’s answer to the Windrush scandal

一种merica’s equivalent of the UK’s Windrush scandal is the driving force behind this fierce heartbreaker from Korean-American star Justin Chon, who played Erik in the Twilight saga and got his directing breakthrough in 2017 和 Gook, a drama set around the 1992 LA riots. 这里, Chon writes, directs and stars as Antonio, who as a baby was given away for adoption by his immigrant Korean mother and brought up by negligent white parents. After a troubled past and spells in jail for stealing motorbikes, Antonio has turned his life around, working as a tattoo artist in New Orleans and married to a physical therapist, 凯西, played by Alicia Vikander – who, with no dubbing, sings a very nice karaoke version of Roy Orbison’s song about the beautiful Louisiana wetlands that give the film its title.

Antonio is a loving stepdad to Kathy’s daughter Jessie (Sydney Kowalske) and together, they’ve got another baby on the way. But Jessie’s absentee dad is a cop, Ace (Mark O’Brien), who with aggressive self-pity now bitterly regrets leaving his child to be parented by another man and is demanding parental access rights; influenced by his racist cop partner Denny (Emory Cohen) it dawns on him that in the US, adopted people of immigrant descent without paperwork have no guaranteed residency. He can get Antonio deported. 同时, Antonio and Kathy befriend Vietnamese-American Parker (Linh-Dan Pham), who has her own sadness.

Subtlety and nuance are not exactly this film’s strong points and creating a minor character who happens to be an immigration officer, and a nice guy, is a very contrived balancing effect. And in the final scene, Chon certainly cranks up the agony dials to 11, 12 and beyond. Yet this could be exactly the kind of scene that is happening every day to people in the real world, the kind of people whose grim case histories Chon flashes up over the closing credits. Chon has a great line echoing the title, when Antonio asks Jessie about her sad comment that he won’t want to spend time with her when the baby comes: “Was that a blue thought or a true thought?” – that is, a thought born of sadness, or truth? This painful drama shows it can be both.

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