Blindspotting ★★★★★

How were we supposed to know that hipsters were so... flammable?

Collin (Daveed Diggs) is a convicted felon put on probation. Over the course of the final three days of his probation, Collin watches a police officer (Ethan Embry) shooting a black man on the streets of his hometown of Oakland. This experience triggers a psychological and ethical crisis in Collin which affects his views on his white childhood friend Miles (Rafael Casal), whose volatile nature endangers everyone around them.

Directed by newcomer Carlos López Estrada and written by the two leading actors Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal, Blindspotting is a drama that tackles the theme of racial identity with equal parts seriousness and comedy. This might sound like the recipe for disaster to most people, but surprisingly, it works wonders for this amazing film. It's still sad, though, that this film was never released in Danish theaters, and I only watched it by buying it on iTunes, as it has a relevant message conveyed in a manner that is far beyond what the Academy and media are willing to give credit to.

The central issue at hand of this film is a common problem that everyone should be able to relate to: we all judge other people too easily, based on either first impressions or crucial life events. From that point on, we will always have hard time accepting the fact that there is more to people around us than what can be perceived from these events. For that reason, we will have a hard time accepting the reality of someone or something in front of us. In the case of Collin, he has a hard time accepting the fact that Miles, through his hot-headed attitude, is just as complicit in the event that led to Collin's incarceration. Miles, on the other hand, is a local Oakland kid who's always had to act tough, or as a black person, in order to survive, yet he still has a hard time coming to terms with the gentrification of his hometown, which makes his tough guy act unnecessary and instead appear as cultural appropriation. The individual struggles of each character within the film is portrayed brilliantly, and it all leads up to an amazing climax in which rapping is used as the ultimate expression of the film's emotional logic and overall message. We all need to see all sides of one person, before we judge them - even when we know the atrocities other people have committed.

It is with these internal struggles of the characters in mind that I also love the tonal conflicts and how the film shows these in its visuals. The serious dramatic points are here to show us the darker and more unlikeable sides of each character; the more surreal sequences are here to highlight the absurdity of the small things that can lead to terrible acts of violence, and finally, the comedy is here to show the common humanity that is inherent in every character here. The tonal shifts of this film ultimately make each character feel more fleshed out, despite the film's rather short runtime of 92 minutes. Combine that with cinematography and production design that show us an Oakland slowly becoming the home of awkward and annoying white hipsters, who are still kind people by the end of the day, and we have a film that gives us a surprisingly natural and raw perspective to the theme of racial identity. It even manages to do all this without resorting to any statements that feel unnecessarily grandiose or saccharine in any way, despite the comedic positivity that characterize most of the film's first half.

Blindspotting is a unique film that you can't allow yourself to miss. I can't guarantee that you'll love it as much as I do, but I think it should have had a far bigger impact on the racial debate. At least when it comes to the cinematic representation of this theme.

Patrick liked these reviews