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Timely Immigration Story Slips From Lyrical to Overwrought

From a distance, Justin Chon’s “Blue Bayou” appears to be a film that may warrant comparability to Lee Isaac Chung’s Oscar-nominated “Minari” – the story of a younger Korean man and his household struggling to get by within the U.S., and likewise to determine his personal identification in a land that generally seems like residence and generally feels hostile.

But “Blue Bayou,” which premiered on Tuesday within the Un Certain Regard part of the Cannes Film Festival, isn’t a quiet, clever character research the best way “Minari” was. It goals to be larger and bolder and extra dramatic, which too typically interprets into extra melodramatic.  At the identical time, although, the melodrama will be efficient at instances, and there’s an admirable urgency with which it tackles important points in U.S. immigration coverage.

At first, the movie nearly looks like a cousin to “Moonlight” in the best way it explores Southern identification amongst those that are sometimes dispossessed. Antonio LeBlanc (director-writer-actor Chon) is a Korean immigrant who got here to the U.S. on the age of three and was adopted by a household from Louisiana; now he works as a tattoo artist throughout the river from New Orleans, and finds his makes an attempt to get further work stymied by his two felony convictions for stealing motorcyles.

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Antonio’s spouse, Kathy (a convincingly Southern Alicia Vikander) is anticipating a second daughter, whereas the couple additionally struggles to offer for his or her first little one, Jessie, who has been raised understanding Antonio as her father as a result of her start father, Ace (Mark O’Brien) left the household way back. Ace is an area cop who desires again into his daughter’s life and appears to have it in for Antonio – though he’s nothing in comparison with his accomplice, Denny (Emory Cohen), who initially looks like comedian reduction however shortly turns right into a cartoonish caricature of a foul cop.

At first, the movie relies round simple, intimate scenes that sketch life at residence or within the tattoo parlor the place trash-talking is the principle manner of communication. But these sequences are intercut with dreamier, extra lyrical interludes, lots of them involving water; it’s a film that feels grounded however isn’t afraid to take quiet flights of fancy, which makes it extra intriguing.

But a run-in with Ace and Denny within the grocery retailer lands Antonio in jail, after which ICE will get concerned. Because Antonio’s adoptive mother and father didn’t finalize his citizenship or fill out all the precise paperwork, he’s ordered deported despite the fact that he got here to the U.S. as a child and has been right here for 3 many years. His choices are to depart the nation after which apply to get again in, or keep and combat – but when he does and loses his courtroom battle, he’ll be thrown out for good.

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Antonio’s plight offers the film some urgency, however Chon nonetheless slips out and in of his lyrical mode. It’s a tense story that may take the time to bask within the particulars of a Vietnamese picnic Antonio and his household attend on the request of a girl who fled that nation as a toddler and is now dying of most cancers. (The picnic scene additionally offers Vikander the prospect to belt out the Roy Orbison music that provides the movie its title; although her spectacular singing voice appears somewhat too skilled to return from the character.)

Gradually, Antonio’s again story is sophisticated (the small print aren’t fairly), violence erupts as his courtroom date looms and a movie that started off as a quiet, largely naturalistic drama turns increasingly overwrought. Chon cranks up the music and the water metaphors, and within the closing half hour appears decided to throw in as many twists as attainable, every yet another wrenching and tear-jerking than the final.

It works, to a sure diploma – and when the tip credit present an inventory of real-life individuals who have been deported or are going by way of the deportation course of regardless of having been adopted  by U.S. residents many years in the past, you perceive why this can be a topic price getting labored up about….

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