Film Review - 'Blindspotting' Is a Triumphant and Timely Love Letter to Oakland
Blindspotting is a very personal film. The kind of personal you get after a few drinks with a friend and they sit you down and ask, “Can I be real with you for a moment?” It’s not just because it took the writers, longtime best friends, and stars Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal 10 years to make, but it’s also an intimate and cautionary love letter to their home - Oakland. Like Superman’s signature “S” – Diggs and Casal wear the Bay proudly on their chest. That pride seeps into the film as we see the area through the eyes of their characters.
Collin (Daveed Diggs) 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 (Rafael Casal), work as movers, and when Collin witnesses a police shooting, the two men’s friendship is tested as they grapple with identity and their changed realities in the rapidly-gentrifying neighborhood they grew up in. (x)
Blindspotting does not follow the same themes and patterns of your typical film. In fact, you would be hard-pressed to find anything like it. Though the story centers around one horrific (and extremely timely) incident, it still remains a slice of life story. We watch these characters as they go to work, spend time with their family and friends, and just simply exist. All while adjusting to the gentrification that is slowly encompassing their home. It’s a sad and sobering reality, which the film never allows you to forget.
One of the most fascinating (and arguably best) things about the film is the friendship dynamic between Collin and Miles. The natural chemistry between Diggs and Casal is a driving force for the film, with witty banter, synchronized raps, and unflinching conversations that you could only have with someone you are truly close too.
Both characters are going through their own internal battles. For calm and collected Collin, it’s coming to terms with his life post-incarceration and the burden of being a black man in America ("You monsters got me feeling like a monster in my own town!" Collin yells at one point). For Miles (who is truly a powder keg and that friend you can't take anywhere) it’s grappling with his own identity and his growing resentment towards the gentrifying implants who have encroached on his home territory. The combination of these things brings immense strain on their relationship, which leads to an incredible and memorable pressure cooker scene between the 2 friends.
The film teeters between drama and comedy, with scenes of genuine levity counterbalancing moments of extreme tension. There are also moments of performance art with a sprinkle of spoken word and rap. All of this makes the film hard to categorize - which is a good thing overall. Blindspotting’s strengths lie in its familiarity and comfort in the subject matters they are addressing (and there are plenty). Race relations, police brutality, privilege, and gentrification- the film has a clear, distinct voice (“Yee!”) and knows exactly what it is and what it wants to say.
From the dialogue to the outfits they rock (most from Oakland based brands) the film is unapologetically Bay through and through. And as an audience member who may not be familiar with the West Coast colloquial or nuances, you never feel like the film is talking down to you or treating you like an outsider. There is a pulse and an energy that can be felt in every scene.
Supported by an incredibly strong cast, Blindspotting is probably one of the best films of 2018. With the amazing talent coming from Oakland, Diggs and Casal stand on their own as a perfect dream team. Where some films may use Oakland as a casual backdrop, Blindspotting turns Oakland into an actual living, breathing character. The film is a huge accomplishment and should not be missed.
Blindspotting Opens Limited on July 20th and Wide July 27th