Films with the power of Blue Bayou are rare in modern cinema. I’ll admit that when the credits begun to roll I sat there in complete stunned silence. Normally I am the kind of person that turns to my co-host as soon as the credits start and ask them what they thought of the film, but with Blue Bayou we both sat there in stunned silence. Partly because of the power of the film and partly because it is hard to comprehend that in 2021 the story told in Blue Bayou is occurring in the USA nearly every day.
The film centres around the loving couple of tattoo artist Antonio LeBlanc (Justin Chon – Twilight) and physical therapist Kathy LeBlanc (Alicia Vikander – Ex-Machina). They are poor and don’t have much but they have each other and they have their daughter, Jessie (Sydney Kowalske – Girl In The Basement)… and that is enough to make them happy.
Despite the fact that Jessie is from Kathy’s first marriage, to dutiful cop Ace (Mark O’Brien – Arrival), Antonio loves her deeply and the pair share a special bond. Even when he finds out that Kathy is expecting his child he tells Jessie nothing will ever stop him loving her.
But then two events happen that will change things forever. First of all a chance meeting between Antonio and Kathy in a supermarket with Ace and his violently racist partner, Denny (Emory Cohen – Brooklyn), leads to trouble for the couple and deep secrets being revealed. Then Antonio meets the terminally ill Parker Nguyen (Linh-Dan Pham – Mr Nobody) that leads him to ask more questions about his ancestry.
Normally films like Blue Bayou that tug at your heart-strings are told in an almost Hallmark fashion. They are clichéd and you can almost pick every trope and turn before they happen. Blue Bayou isn’t like that though, instead Justin Chon, who is also the film’s director and screenwriter, allow the film to take on a gritty, alternative persona that allows the film to become more hard-hitting and pack an even more powerful punch into its audience’s stomach. Why does it hit so hard? Because Chon is such a talented director that his style of filmmaking seems so natural at times the dialogue and what you are watching are so realistic that you feel like you are watching a documentary.
I’m not going to hold back with this – the story, revealed in the twist of the film, is a story that needed to be exposed to the world and as it turns out Justin Chon was just the right filmmaker to do so. If Chon doesn’t win an Oscar for Blue Bayou, and he really should, then there is no doubt in my mind that one day he certainly will. Not only is his acting in this film award-worthy but his directing certainly is as he has delivered one of the films of the year.
If the Oscars were fair then you would have say that Chon could easily walk away with a swag of Oscars for this film. Best Actor, Best Director, Best Film and Best Screenwriter – and all would be deserved. As much as I marvelled at Chon’s directional skills this film also showcases what a spectacular screenwriter he is as well. This film shows emotion without getting sappy and Chon is a talented enough writer to make sure that none of the film’s twists and turns are revealed before he needs to them. Even better is the fact that he is a mature and brave enough writer to not disappoint the audience with a clichéd Hollywood ending.
This of course is not the Justin Chon show though. As good as Chon’s performance is he is well matched alongside Alicia Vikander who once again reminds cinema audiences that she is well and truly above her Tomb Raider credentials. Like Chon Vikander puts in a truly emotional and dramatic performance that should have tested her limits, but instead she excelled in the role. Together the pair pull off two of the best performances that you are likely to see on the big screen in 2021.
Blue Bayou is not only one of the best films that you will see in 2021, it is also one of the most powerful. This is the kind of film that has you walking away from the cinema angry at just how unjust the world, these are the kinds of films that we need in this world to make a difference. If you loved the power of Nomadland last year be prepared to be floored by the brilliance of Blue Bayou and its creator Justin Chon.