Blindspotting review Daveed Diggs Rafael CasalYear: 2018
Director(s): Carlos Lopez Estrada
Writer(s): Rafael Casal, Daveed Diggs
Region of Origin: USA
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Rating: R
Color, 95 mins

Synopsis: While on probation, a black man begins to re-evaluate his relationship with his volatile best friend. (Source)

It’s a sobering fact that who we are, and how we see others, isn’t the full picture. There’s more to each of us than we admit to or are capable of seeing, and it’s in this blindspot where racism, privilege, bias and more take root. Like a swiftly timed punch to the gut, Carlos Lopez Estrada’s Blindspotting tackles all of these ideas in a way that constantly surprises and provokes. But despite how raw the film gets, the script, written by co-stars Rafael Casal and Daveed Diggs, is as charming and energetic as it is urgent. From beginning to end, this is an unclassifiable masterpiece that entertains and informs, tackling hard truths about race relations while leaving us stunned and uplifted. With its electric performances and wholly original execution, Estrada’s film is a defining work about the here and now, and it absolutely demands to be seen.

After serving time in prison, Collin (Daveed Diggs) is placed on a year-long probation. As an African-American ex-con amidst a gentrified Oakland, he’s forced to face impending prejudice with narrowed opportunities. In turn, he mostly keeps to his self, adhering to a strict curfew and geographical limits. To make ends meet, Collin works as a moving man, a job he shares with his childhood friend, Miles (Rafael Casal). With just three days left in his probation, Collin is jolted after witnessing the death of a young black man at the hands of a cop. Unsure of what to do, Collin and Miles try to maintain business as usual. Over the next few days, however, these best friends are pushed to their limits and forced to evaluate who they are and what they mean to each other.

Much like the idea that drives it, Estrada’s film never conforms to what we think or want it to be. It’s sometimes a buddy picture, thriller and comedy, but always a socially aware drama that cuts deep. We’re essentially a fly-on-the-wall, watching two friends stick with each other through thick and thin. Casal and Diggs’ script eschews standard structure for a loose plot that makes every scene feel spontaneous and loose. Estrada knows that the film’s center is the relationship between his two leads, and it’s something that’s always front and center, subverting expectations while unsaid tensions wait for the right moment to explode. Without saying too much, the film eventually guts us in a way we don’t see coming, weaving an intricate dissection of its racial commentary with an infectious rhythm. There are even a few “rap” numbers thrown in for surrealist measure.

Blindspotting Daveed Diggs Rafael CasalWith a central focus on Collin and Miles’ impenetrable bond, stars/writers Diggs and Casal excel and burn up the screen. Diggs is a natural leading man. There’s an honesty in everything he does, and as he goes through the entire range of human emotion, he effortlessly makes sure that we’re just as invested as he is. On the flip, Casal is a natural counter to Diggs. He brings to life a friend who’s unhinged, uninhibited and leads with impulse, for better or worse. By design, Casal feels like a whirlwind in the film, but we can’t ever refuse him no matter how quick he is to get into trouble. It goes without saying that these two men are why the film’s deeply layered storytelling works. They’re able to express the intangible and complex emotions that rage within. They’re also a lot of fun to be around, and by the end, you’ll be pining for more of them. Even with smaller roles, Janina Gavankar and Jasmine Cephas Jones are anchors for both men, turning in understated characters who hold real weight.

Blindspotting feels like nothing else. It’s a celebration of brotherly connection, but also calls out fear, prejudice, ignorance, and a rapidly changing social climate devouring itself from the inside out. When all is said and done, we’re emotionally drained, intellectually fed, and coming off the high of such a dazzling experience. It’s hard to say more about the film without giving some of it away, but this is definitely something that will be looked back on. It’s a milestone that perfectly captures us in transition, and carries with it a message that can’t be ignored.

SG