YouTube video

Most movie fans may note how well Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart have done with their careers since leaving Twilight behind, or how Anna Kendrick became a surprise breakout from the franchise. But co-star Justin Chon has been doing well for himself in a low-key way.

Even more impressive is that he’s expanded to not only working as an actor on film and TV, but also behind the scenes as an independent film director. His last two full length features, Gook (2017) and Ms. Purple (2019), did very well with critics and indie fans. Now comes his most recent venture with Blue Bayou.

In the outskirts of New Orleans, Antonio ‘Tony’ LeBlanc (Chon) is struggling to land a second job as a Korean immigrant with a past criminal record, as he needs more work to support his wife Kathy (Alicia Vikander), stepdaughter Jessie (Sydney Kowalske) and new baby on the way.

Though Tony has been living in the US since age 3, his adoptive parents never fully completed the adoption process when he was a child. His lack of proper citizenship is used against him along, with racism and his crime experience, when two rowdy, local cops (Mark O’Brien and Emory Cohen)—one of whom is also Jessie’s biological father—pick a fight with him.

Now on ICE’s radar while Kathy takes up her job part-time again, Tony has to come up with a way for a $5,000 retainer and a group of witnesses to prove he’s a committed American citizen.

Linh Dan Pham plays a Vietnamese immigrant who befriends Tony and Vondie Curtis-Hall appears as Tony’s lawyer.

Above all, Blue Bayou shows that Chon is genuinely talented both in front and behind the camera. His performance as well as visual direction impress and capture our eyes for the whole two-hour tale. Vikander does well too, especially with her own musical moment at one point, and it’s always nice to see her on screen.

There are a couple weaknesses with Blue Bayou’s script, however. Jessie is unfortunately one of those easy cliches of a little kid spouting ‘cute’ dialogue as exposition, especially early on in the movie. I’m sure Kowalske is just as adorable in real life, but a lot of the time Jessie feels like a plot device more than an actual character.

The two antagonists are also a little phoned in as the stereotypical cops who will mess with anyone they dislike for their own amusement. Though O’Brien’s role does take a turn by the end that is refreshing.

 Still, if you want a decent family drama with some realistic, relevant issues, Blue Bayou does the trick for a nightly viewing.