BLUE BAYOU is a movie that is both incredibly relative and utterly timeless. It’s the story of Antonio (Justin Chon, who also wrote, produced, and directed), a Korean-American man living in Louisiana. Thanks to a bureaucratic loophole and some misfiled paperwork, Antonio is threatened with deportation, throwing his entire life (including his attempt at rehabilitating himself after a troubled past) into chaos and jeopardizing his relationship with his wife, Kathy (played by Alicia Vikander, most recently seen in THE GREEN KNIGHT). And while it deals with very timely, politically potent issues, BLUE BAYOU is firmly entrenched in the conventions of a classic, old-school melodrama, full of big characters and even bigger emotions.
"I am friends with a lot of adoptees, and I started to hear through the community that this issue was taking place. I started doing my own research and saw a string of articles and videos about adoptees being deported as adults," said Chon. "It’s a loophole that’s being exploited. There shouldn’t be a question as to whether or not they’re citizens.” Chon said that he was driven by these stories and experiences. "I felt a need to shine a light on this issue and give the adoptee community some justice," Chon said.
Vikander had been a fan of the director since seeing Chon’s film GOOK, which he also starred in, at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. "He did a beautiful job with that film with a very small budget, and I was really curious to see what he’d do next. I’d spoken to my team about him when that team came out," Vikander remembered. "They said, ‘He’s working on this new film.’ I [read the script] and that led to us having a chat. He’s incredibly intelligent, emotionally intelligent, and impressive."
Beyond Chon’s oversized talent, she was also drawn to the role of a doting, pregnant, lower-class wife and mother – a role far removed from the adventurous Lara Croft in TOMB RAIDER or coolly mysterious android Ava in EX MACHINA. “I think I generally am drawn myself to stories that shed light on people that normally don’t get that,” Vikander said. “And this family is one that is hardworking and cares about their family.”
She was also galvanized by the film’s subject matter. "Then there was the subject matter. I had no clue this existed – that legally adopted children could be caught in a legal loophole and be deported from their own country," Vikander said.
For his part, Chon, who never intended to play the role of Antonio himself, citing the difficulty of shooting GOOK, was utterly impressed with Vikander and everything she brought to BLUE BAYOU. "Alicia is the best. She’s a class act. She’s at the pinnacle of the game, she’s kind and about the work. You couldn’t ask for a better partner," Chon said. "I was so shocked by how down-to-earth she was. She’s there to do the work and cares about it." Her professionalism made it easier for Chon to do his job – and reflected wonderfully on him. "She’s also so incredibly talented, which makes my life and my job seem like I’m doing really great. Every time she’s on screen, she’s electric," the filmmaker said.
BLUE BAYOU is enjoying an exclusive theatrical run, and we asked Vikander why people should go out to see this very special movie. “I love human stories. We all live busy lives and your own world is the one close to you. But these people, they could be the people you cross paths with at the supermarket and you watch the news every day,” Vikander said. “It’s very difficult to take in some of the traumatic situations people are going through, in life. But through books and music and filmmaking, that’s your way of getting to connect on a human level and get an insight into other people’s lives. That’s why it gets to you.”
BLUE BAYOU opens on September 17!
All images courtesy of Focus Features.