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Pals’ eye-opening journey in Blindspotting

Crackling drama set in post-crash America follows best friends living on the fringes of urban gentrification

05 October, 2018 — By Dan Carrier

Daveed Diggs as Collin, and Rafael Casal as Miles, in Blindspotting

BLINDSPOTTING
Directed by Carlos Lopez Estrada
Certificate 12a
☆☆☆☆☆

HEADING across the Bay from San Francisco, into the city of Oakland, director Carlos Lopez Estrada’s debut film takes a journey into the tensions of post-crash America.

Collin (Daveed Diggs) has been released from prison after serving two months for an altercation outside a bar where he was working. We meet him as he has three days left of a one-year probation.

Miles (Rafael Casal) is his best friend and their relationship dictates this crackling, tense, insightful drama.

Colin knows he needs to stay out of trouble or head back inside, and is also aware that his situation means the chances of being in the wrong place at the wrong time might be more than just a sense of paranoia. This is accentuated when Collin, driving to his halfway hostel to meet an 11pm curfew, witnesses a young black man being shot dead by a police officer. This scene haunts him and sets the tone for the rest of the film.

And what a tone. Collin’s story provides the basis for a tale of urban gentrification. Oakland has evolved as a community. Sitting so close to the heart of the tech boom it has, according to this film, become a place where the established communities have jostled next to new arrivals in the form of young, well-paid hipsters.

The city plays an important role, both as the contextual background to the politics of race, income and class, and as a scene-setter – a trip to a corner shop to buy a single cigarette each morning becomes a showcase of how the area is now “different”. Alongside the convenience food sits a fridge stocked with pressed kale juice.

Using the device of Miles’ and Collin’s jobs as removal men further gives the director a canvas on which to scrawl simple messages. Oakland’s social stratas are shown by the clients whose heavy lifting they do. The trendy artist’s house gives one perspective, while another comes as we enter a house sold by probate. These long-gone inhabitants speak of the sub-prime mortgage bubble as well as any economics lecture.

For all the social comment, best of all is the relationship between the two men who carry this wonderful film.

Their friendship goes through pain in the short days we follow them, but so is their loyalty born out of love to each other. Miles is in need of the guidance from the more sensible Collin, but while Collin attempts to leave the system that has cut him a bad deal alone, he is dragged into reacting on terms he has not agreed to. Haunted by what he has experienced, we get an idea of the fear black American men experience as they go about their lives. On top of this heavy subject, it is also extremely funny, looks good and has a soundtrack you’ll want to download. That’s no mean feat.

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