At a time when politically-themed films have become the norm, Rafael Casal and Daveed Diggs’ Blindspotting is a welcome and fresh take on how the political and the personal can be intertwined. The film starts with Diggs’ character, Colin, who has three days left of his probation and is trying to stay out of trouble despite the best efforts of his reckless best friend Miles, played by Casal. One night after he drops Miles home, Colin witnesses a police officer shooting a young, unarmed, black man in the road but chooses not to say anything because he is worried of what the consequences will be for his probation. This jarring event introduces the main themes of the film as Colin’s personal life becomes intertwined with the larger political events going on in his hometown and his personal safety becomes threatened. The film that, at first, seems like a standard movie about friendship between two men suddenly becomes a more serious critique of America in 2018.
The theme of personal safety and identity are explored most extensively in the film as Colin starts to see his place in the world as a black man who needs to work hard to remain safe. Daily news stories about shootings and police brutality become more stark and real as they are explored through the personal life of a man who is experiencing these things in his everyday life. In one particularly jarring scene, Colin realises how being afraid has become the norm as Miles’ young son is given a pamphlet, which describe the best methods to prevent police offers from shooting him. At a definitive point in the film, Colin even says that he feels like he has become ‘a prisoner in [his] own town,’ which refers to both the dangers he faces and the gentrification that is happening all around him. Whilst the city continues to be changed through this gentrification, those that live there are not benefiting and continue to struggle in the economic conditions they live in.
The film’s most successful aspect is its layered and novel portrayal of the relationship between two men who have grown up together but are now facing different avenues in life. Colin is trying to improve and better himself in an attempt to both win back his ex-girlfriend Val and ensure he makes it to the end of his probation so he can move on with his life. On the other hand, Miles continues to be reckless and violent and even teaches his son the mantra, ‘I’m a tough guy,’ which he believes is the most important thing. As the film goes on, both men become aware of their differences despite never having noticed them before and their reaction to this decides the fate of their friendship. The name of the film itself, which means only seeing a situation from one perspective when there are multiple perspectives, is reflective of how differently these men view their lives and the world around them.
Although the film is exploring themes that have been well-trodden before such as coming of age, race relations and gentrification, Diggs and Casal’s vision is so unique that it is unlike anything we have seen before. Their use of rhyme to emphasise key moments in the film is beautifully done, especially in an explosive climatic scene, showing their mastery of the dialogue. Their script is also complemented by the direction of Carlos López Estrada who shows the true contrast in Oakland between its citizens and the gentrification that is taking place there. It is a difficult balance to achieve but the talent of the actors and Estrada ensure that the tone of the film changes seamlessly as it goes on and keeps the audience unable to look away as we wonder where the stories of these characters will take us. At no point do we think we know where the script will take us as it eventually becomes as wild and unpredictable as Miles himself.
by Aleena Augustine
Aleena is a Classics graduate who splits her time between High Wycombe (just outside of London) and wherever the latest film or TV show she is bingeing is set. She enjoys watching rom-coms (they are not just a guilty pleasure), coming of age films (from John Hughes to Greta Gerwig), animated films (cries at every single one), comedies featuring a strong female ensemble (thank you, Bridesmaids) and psychological thrillers (BONUS if they’re directed by David Fincher). Her favourite films are Before Sunrise, Inside Out, Zodiac and When Harry Met Sally. You can also find her on her blog, That’s What She Said and as a contributor for the music blog, Music Bloggery.