As I write this, Democrats are working to push the $3.5 trillion economic plan. If passed, the plan would invest enormous amounts of federal money into child care, climate change programs, and immigration.
This package was floating in the back of my mind as I watched Justin Chon’s Blue Bayou. It tells the story of Antonio (played by Chon), a Korean-American adoptee who’s lived in Louisiana since he was 3 years old. But he faces deportation due to an error in his adoption papers.
When we meet Antonio, he is working hard to turn his life around. He’s married, his wife Kathy (Alicia Vikander), is expecting her second child, Antonio’s first. He is also helping to raise Kathy’s first daughter, Jessie (Sydney Kowalske), who has become firmly attached to him.
Feeling the pressure to provide for his family, Antonio makes the decision to steal motorcycles to flip for money with his old gang. This is something he already has a criminal record for. He gets away with it briefly but a confrontation with Kathy’s ex partner leads to an altercation with police. And with that encounter, Antonio finds out that he is not a true American citizen and is sent to a detention center to await deportation.
Desperate to find a way to stay, Antonio and Kathy meet with an immigration lawyer. And despite all their efforts Antonio’s status in the U.S. looks grim.
Chon not only directed and acted in this film but he wrote it as well. Blue Bayou is deeply affecting. Chon, who we know from Sundance 2019’s Ms. Purple, continues to explore the lives of middle-class Koreans in the United States with a sharp and critical lens in this movie. He highlights the injustices the community faces but also does not exclude the other people who are affected by devastating situations.
But what made this movie truly shine was the beautiful exploration of relationships, be they a married couple, a step parent and child, or a citizen to the state. There are many layers to thumb through that would make you want to watch this film over and over again.
Blue Bayou is also cinematically gorgeous. Each shot is full of depth and emotion. Chon plays a lot with tone and color in this film, ranging from warm bright tones for joyful moments, to cool, ghostly ones for sorrow and memories.
Ultimately what makes this film stand out is the subject at the center of the film: adopted Americans. At the end of the film, a postscript describes the alarming number of Americans who thought they had citizenship when they were adopted but are now facing deportation or who have been forced out of the U.S. to a birth country they never knew.
And it brings me back to what Congress is hashing out now; an economic plan that would aid immigrants in this country. But will it help those who grew up American but on paper are not?
Blue Bayou is definitely in my top 5 must-see films for 2021, and it will remain with me for a very long time.
See Blue Bayou in theaters now.
Kaely's grade: 5 Shots 🥃🥃🥃🥃🥃
"We are all running from something" is the tagline line for this Maine-made movie. Downeast takes the noir genre and gives it a 2021 update. Lobsterer Tommy lives in a small fishing town that is under the thumb of a gangster. Emma is the sister of his now deceased friend Mikey. The need for answers and closure drive Emma to return to the town. But secrets lie around every lobster trap, and a dangerous game of cat and mouse begins.
Hear our full review here.
12 Months of Kai
It's 2025. Kyoka works as a web director in Tokyo. She's still grieving a breakup that tears at her heart. Lonely she decides to purchase a personal care humanoid, a PCH. He arrives and she names him Kai. Able to simulate 60% of human behavior, Kyoka quickly develops feelings for Kai.
But things take a creepier twist when she suddenly discovers she's pregnant. Something that should be impossible.
12 Months of Kai takes the concept of artificial intelligence a step further than most films of the same concept. Beautifully directed with riveting acting, it's no wonder this movie won the 2021 Phoenix Film Festival Best SciFi Feature.
Click here to hear our review.
What happens when you call out for one thousand rock musicians to come to your town and play together, all in the hopes of attracting your favorite band? You get an incredible documentary full of joy, spirit, and human greatness. And that's exactly what We Are the Thousand gives us. It's the story about the world's largest rock band and how they got started.
We loved this film a lot. Check out the original music video below to see what 1,000 rockers can do. And you can hear our full review here.
And be sure to check out the rest of our Phoenix Film Festival coverage here!