“Blindspotting”

 

            This Grand Prize Winner at Sundance is an emotionally impactful social commentary that works because it remembers to draw in the viewers to care about the characters.

            Collin (Daveed Diggs, who won a Tony and a Grammy for originating the role of Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson in the Broadway musical“Hamilton”) is on the last three days of his probation.  He lives and works in Oakland, the rough side of town.  He got in trouble because he lost his temper, and got in a fight with a rude client while working as a security guard at a nightclub.  Now, he spends his days working at moving company, and living in a halfway house where the curfew is 11 p.m.  Sharp.  No excuses.

            His best buddy in the world is Miles (Rafael Casal), who's been his friend since childhood, and is now his partner on the moving van. Miles seems to be one of those “culture vultures” who's white, but is very comfortable in the black community.  He's married to Ashley (Jasmine Cephas Jones, who was also in “Hamilton”), a black woman, and they have a young son together.  Miles enjoys rapping with Collin.  They carry on their conversations in a kind of street jive where they're both very adept, but Miles has to be a little careful, sometimes, around blacks who don't know him, who might think he's caricaturing or mocking them.

            Collin's had a girlfriend, Val (Janina Gavankar) the receptionist at the moving company, but she kept her distance from him when he was in jail, and because of that Miles thinks he should just forget about her.  Collin spends a lot of time at Miles' house, but he still pines for a re-connect with Val.  But until or unless that happens, Collin is facing moving back home, where his Mom seems more welcominmg of her stepson, and tells Collin he's old enough to live on his own.

            Collin is trying his best to walk the straight and narrow, but circumstances seem to be conspiring against him.  He witnesses a white cop shooting a fleeing, unarmed black man, but his guilt about not being able to get involved causes him nightmares, featuring the specters of other black men standing beside their tombstones, silently condemning him.  He also restrains from getting involved when his buddy Miles gets in a fight at a company party, because Collin just can't afford any more trouble, but Miles calls him on the disloyalty.  Miles buys a gun, and Collin reminds him that he can't be around that, because he's a felon, and his probation will be revoked.  So the tensions abound, even among best buddies.

            Daveed Digg's talent and presence makes him a character we want to root for, despite, and because of, all the challenges around him.  The coarse language and confrontative dynamics will be off-putting to many genteel moviegoers, but it's a social parable with the lilt of a street rapper and the sharp edge of a box cutter.

 

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association