Sydney Kowalske and Justin Chon in “Blue Bayou.” 

With Blue Bayou, Korean-American actor and filmmaker Justin Chon crafts a beautiful and emotionally raw story of human connection, imperfection and redemption.

Scooped up by Focus Features out of the 2020 Cannes virtual market, Chon’s latest film is easily one of the year's most moving and timely works. From the onset, the performances and Chon’s artistry pull you to an emotional depth that deserves serious awards consideration.

Similar to the kind of slice-of-life stories in Sean Baker’s filmography (The Florida Project and Tangerine), Chon tackles real-world issues without allowing the politics of it all to overshadow the tender, personal drama at hand. In Blue Bayou, Chon depicts the Asian American experience through a narrative in which he portrays Antonio, a Louisiana man adopted from Korea by a white family when he was a toddler. Now, as a 30-something-year-old, the world he’s helped create with his pregnant wife Kathy (an incredible Alicia Vikander) and stepdaughter Jessie (Sydney Kowalske) is about to be upended at no fault of his own.

We learn when Antonio was adopted, his citizenship status wasn’t properly filed, and he’s now facing deportation. What follows is a heartfelt journey of Antonio and his family trying to push through a devastating situation that doesn’t seem to let off the brakes. While some circumstances may feel a bit heavy-handed and melodramatic, Chon doesn’t let these moments sink his powerful and poignant film. For anyone who is close to their family or cries easily during movies (raises hand), Blue Bayou is going to hit like a shotgun blast to the heart.

PRESTON BARTA is a member of the Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association. Read his work here, on and on Follow him on Twitter at @PrestonBarta.

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