STARRING: Daveed Diggs, Rafael Casal, Janina Gavankar, Jasmine Cephas Jones, Ethan Embry, Tisha Campbell-Martin, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Wayne Knight, Kevin Carroll and Lance Cameron Holloway
While on probation, a man begins to re-evaluate his relationship with his volatile best friend.
Collin must make it through his final three days of probation for a chance at a new beginning. He and his troublemaking childhood best friend, Miles, work as movers and are forced to watch their old neighborhood become a trendy spot in the rapidly gentrifying Bay Area. When a life-altering event causes Collin to miss his mandatory curfew, the two men struggle to maintain their friendship as the changing social landscape exposes their differences.
Blindspotting is directed by Carlos López Estrada (making his directorial feature debut), based on a screenplay written by Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal over the course of nine years, with the duo also starring in the lead roles. Collin Hodgkins is a convicted felon with only a few days left on his probation and works alongside best friend Miles for a moving company in Oakland. One night whilst waiting at a crossroads for the traffic light to go green, he witnesses a white police officer gun down a black civilian. Afraid to speak out about it due to the shooting happening when Collin was late for his curfew, he begins to have nightmares and experience hallucinations, leading him to also re-evaluate his relationship with Miles.
Blindspotting has a tight script from Diggs and Casal that balances the drama very well with the comedy for me, particularly in scenes such as Miles trying to sell hair straighteners at a salon, the opening chill-out in the car that ends up being a gun sell and especially the scene where we find out what Collin got arrested for, which happens to be one of my favourite scenes of the year. Carlos López Estrada does a great job helming the film, with great editing by Gabriel Fleming and one of the most effective things in the film is its sound design/mixing. It’s so effective in how it portrays Collin’s torment as he suffers post traumatic stress disorder after witnessing the police shooting, and how at any turn or mood he might feel, one visual of a police car to simply doing his morning run sends him immediately back to that incident. The story may focus on the co-leads and the family and friends they interact with, but Oakland is a character in itself, showing us the side of gentrification in the area. Collin and Miles work for a moving company, yet it shows only people leaving the neighbourhood, in particular one character is taking the history of Oakland with him (always good to have a Wayne Knight appearance). As the new people move into Oakland to claim it as there own (one sequence where we notice how their condo stands out amongst the rest of the local housing in the community), Miles sees this as the biggest threat to his identity of being a local as the people moving in look like him and even at one point he’s mistaken as being the kind of ‘hipster’ that he despises. Collin is the more calm of the two, looking to avoid trouble at all costs while Miles has a reckless side to him, though it comes from years of feeling that he’s had to overcompensate to be down yet his privilege will always bail him out (hence Collin is the only one that does time, even though Miles was involved). The friendship of the two is the heart of the story and their social and personal issues with each other reach a head in a scene that for some can hit home, because one way or another, we’ve all had at least one friend like Miles, a troublemaker who would always be there for you, even though that could take you down a dark path. We also see the relationships the two men have, Miles with his wife and young son and Collin attempting to rekindle his with his old flame. The two women may have limited time on screen, but Jasmine Cephas Jones shines as Miles’ wife Ashley while Janina Gavankar is great as Val. I’ve never seen Rafael Casal act before and I must say I was thoroughly impressed with his performance as Miles. He’s charming, cheeky and menacing, a boiling pot of unpredictability that I can’t wait to see what he does in the future. Daveed Diggs I’ve seen in limited roles in The Get Down and Wonder, but I thought he was absolutely fantastic as Collin, balancing out keeping his cool amongst those around him whilst behind the scenes he’s tortured by the incident.
The film plays an angle with rap throughout the the course of the film in small moments and it all comes to mean something in the final act. The final act could prove to be divisive in how the viewer will perceive it, either you’ll buy into it or you won’t, but that’s the only nitpick I can give it.
The film tackles topics of identity and gentrification with ease and manages to balance great comedic moments with great dramatic beats that are heightened by effective sound design, with an intense conclusion. Diggs and Casal both give colossal performances here and their script is well polished, with great direction by Carlos López Estrada. Blindspotting is one of my favourite films of the year. 10/10