Blindspotting explores life in modern Oakland and anchors its timely premise with terrific performances, inventive sound design and a bold script

Film Review by Carmen Paddock | 01 Feb 2019
  • Blindspotting
Film title: Blindspotting
Director: Carlos López Estrada
Starring: Daveed Diggs, Rafael Casal, Janina Gavankar, Jasmine Cephas Jones
Release date: 4th February 2019
Certificate: 15

Friendships change constantly under the best of everyday circumstances; friendships dealing with incarceration, police brutality and uncertain employment can suffer more stress and re-evaluation than most. Blindspotting gives us Oakland through the eyes of Collin (Diggs), working alongside his lifelong best friend Miles (Casal) to complete probation and restart his life after a violent crime put the former behind bars. This premise is carried by terrific performances, inventive sound design and a bold script.

Director Carlos López Estrada and writers-stars Diggs and Casal create a vibrant, multifaceted vision of Oakland and its peoples: gentrification and the gig economy are irrevocably altering lives, while systematic profiling threatens its non-white citizens, and yet the city’s lively atmosphere is cherished. Diggs and Casal – lifelong friends in real life – wrote this film over nine years to reflect the changes and challenges faced by their home town. Their love for Oakland seeps through every frame but does not cloud a damning picture of modern America’s systems of oppression.

Diggs prove a sympathetic protagonist, playing the role of everyman caught in circumstances spiralling out of his control with dignity, humour and vulnerability. It is one of the strongest, most nuanced performances from last year. Casal balances Miles’ loyalty and volatility, keeping him just on the right side on sympathetic. Janina Gavankar and Jasmine Cephas Jones are both memorable as Collin’s ex and Miles’ partner respectively.

While the uncertainty, instability and socio-political hostility defining Collin’s existence elicit anger and outrage, the film is shot through with moments of hilarity and surrealism. Instead of distracting from the realities portrayed, the absurdity enhances the story’s urgency and honesty. The details of Collin’s and Miles’ crime play out in a humorous monologue over flashback and this heightened reality also allowed Diggs to showcase his acclaimed freestyle rap skills when faced with realities he cannot change. When his world becomes too much, and the only appropriate reaction is to break out of it. Blindspotting is a near faultless film – bravely engaging with topical issues while providing a frank, often funny, look at those caught in the mess.

Out on DVD, Blu-ray and digital downlaod on 4 Feb from Lionsgate