Parents' Guide to

Blue Bayou

By Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 14+

Powerful indictment of U.S. immigration system; language.

Movie R 2021 112 minutes
Blue Bayou Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 15+

Based on 2 parent reviews

age 14+

A searing performance

This film starts strong and then feels like it meanders a bit as it gears up for the ending, however the young protagonist Kowalske brings in a searing performance at the end of the film that encapsulates the pain, trauma, loss, and havoc that separating families feels like on the soul. At times Chon is a bit heavy handed, but I think it is forgivable because the story of those that "slip through the cracks" of immigration policy is a story of injustice and pain and one that we need to feel ripped from our grasp.
age 16+

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say: (2 ):
Kids say: Not yet rated

This poignant, powerful family drama eventually slips into melodrama but, thanks to standout performances, remains an important and authentic immigration narrative. Chon continues to center Korean American perspectives in his films by tackling a little-known group of people: international adoptees who aren't technically citizens because their adoptive parents (and adoption agencies) failed to properly file the paperwork. Chon purposely doesn't make Antonio perfect. Yes, he has a nonviolent criminal record (which is the reason he's fast-tracked for deportation), but he's so much more than that. He's a loving, thoughtful, and playful stepfather to his beloved stepdaughter and a doting husband. The first half of Blue Bayou feels very naturalistic, with scenes of domestic life that almost seem improvised (particularly all of Chon and Kowalske's moments on-screen).

A story in which class and race intertwine, Blue Bayou veers a bit into melodrama once Antonio is beaten and arrested. Cohen's cop character, Denny, delights in being sadistic, believing himself untouchable thanks to the thin blue line. O'Brien's Ace, however, is portrayed and written with more nuance. But the film's best supporting character is Parker, a stranger who pops into Antonio's life a couple of times (asking for a tattoo on a day that he's particularly desperate for a client) and quickly becomes a maternal figure. Phan is luminous in the role, exuding the warmth and tenderness that no one else shows Antonio but Kathy and Jessie. Vikander is nearly unrecognizable as Kathy, a wife whose sole purpose is to keep her family together. This isn't an easy film to watch; it's heartbreaking at times and a tad heavy-handed in others. But it's also another example of Chon's gift for asking audiences to empathize with his characters.

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