I’ve been really disappointed with how quickly Blindspotting has disappeared. It vanished from theaters in a heartbeat, though I’m not entirely shocked that it didn’t connect with mainstream audiences, but it also received a lukewarm reaction from critics, which surprises me. I found it to be a really incisive, thought-provoking exploration of racial issues. It’s a real calling card for Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal who co-wrote the film and also play the two leads. Diggs plays Colin, a young black man with three days left on his probation; Casal is his best friend, Miles, a young white man that is exactly the kind of reckless person someone with three days left on their probation should be avoiding. Things are complicated when Colin witnesses a white police officer shoot an unarmed black man. This isn’t a movie heavily driven by plot, not even after the shooting; it’s more of an atmosphere and character driven movie. The script is smart, witty and abrasive in all the right ways. It digs in deep to things like posing, cultural appropriation, police violence, reckless behavior, etc. And the atmosphere is one of real dread as Colin moves toward the end of his probation; both he and the audience know that at any moment something could destroy everything he’s worked for and send him back to prison, something as simple as a police stop or an argument with a neighborhood punk. The only one who seems not to realize it is Miles. Estrada’s vivid direction is a big part of that atmosphere; it’s a film shot right on the mean streets and it feels like it. The performances are really excellent. Diggs and Casal have apparently been real-life friends for years and that gives their relationship in the film a real sense of history and real chemistry. Janina Gavanker is very good as Colin’s ex-girlfriend and Jasmine Jones is really scene stealing as Miles’ long-suffering wife. But Casal really gives the performance of the film; he makes Miles a figure both charismatic and dangerous, dangerous because of his recklessness, because he doesn’t consider consequences. Over his probation time, Colin has honed the skill of thinking things through, often too deeply for his own good, but Miles is a man driven by knee-jerk emotion and that makes him a dangerous man on the streets of Oakland. But, as we begin to see, even though Colin has honed a skill of thinking before acting, well, no one’s perfect and the cracks in that façade start to show.
I did have a few problems with the film. There are a couple of moments that are a bit too on the nose and I really disliked the final scene, which tries to be overly bouncy and hopeful. I wouldn’t have minded a kind of “well, those of us left standing will still persevere” type scene, but the scene as it is goes so far as to kind of try to end on a joke and that’s really out of step with the rest of the film. I think the climax, by which I mean the scene right before the last scene, will be very divisive. The film seems to be moving toward a pretty standard, typical moment of confrontation, probably capped with a dramatic monologue, but the movie goes a different direction, a pretty audacious one if you ask me. I went there with the movie and was deeply moved; others, I think, will find the moment contrived and maybe roll their eyes a bit. But regardless of those last two scenes, the bulk of the movie is really masterful, smartly written, atmospheric, brilliantly acted and seriously thought-provoking. It’s sadly, and somewhat ironically given its title, gotten lost in the discussion about the year’s best films and it deserves to be in that conversation. Do a little blindspotting yourself; see this movie. 4 stars.
tl;dr – thought-provoking and boasting brilliant performances, this sadly overlooked film is one of the year’s best; a raw exploration of racial issues and a great character study at the same time. 4 stars.