- Emma Simmonds
- 1 October 2018
Carlos López Estrada's dynamic debut is as political as it is comical
The feature debut of Carlos López Estrada is a Sundance sensation that screams on to the screen in an uproar of audacious energy and rapid-fire wit. Set in Oakland, California, the carnival-esque visuals bring together a collage of local colour. When things slow down it's to an incendiary, heartfelt study of friendship, identity and American attitudes toward race and repentance.
Penned by its stars Rafael Casal and Daveed Diggs (a Grammy and Tony Award winner for his work on Hamilton), who show serious chops for writing comedy both broad and satirical, it opens as Collin (Diggs) is transferred from prison to a halfway house where he'll spend a year following the strict conditions of his parole. Skip forward to three days before his parole expires and, given his frequent fraternising with lawbreakers, including wild card best friend Miles (Casal), he faces a nail-biting wait to see if he can make it out the other end unsullied.
Diggs brings a soulfulness to Collin's plight; haunted by what he's seen and done he's also weighed down by perception which, as an African-American, makes him nervous to walk the streets for fear of arrest. The film contemplates the difficulties of Collin escaping his past and the associations that threaten his freedom; Miles is both fiercely loyal and, in his volatility, constantly threatens to drag Collin back down.
Miles, meanwhile, is in the midst of his own, initially comical, crisis: the neighbourhood is rapidly being gentrified and the appropriation of his look by hipsters has rendered him a parody. Blindspotting also shows how, despite Miles's recklessness – a scene involving his young son and a gun is chilling – the fact that he is white means his actions carry fewer consequences.
There's a Clerks-esque vibe to the feckless, laidback bants, yet the zesty multiculturalism and feel for the local scene ensure Blindspotting is amply idiosyncratic and of our time. If some of the performances are rough around the edges it only adds to the authenticity. The climax, which sees Collin face his bogeyman, might feel a tad contrived but, as he unleashes his frustrations in a furious rap soliloquy, it's powerful stuff indeed.
Selected release from Fri 5 Oct.