A deep-felt love letter to the city of Oakland that tackles the challenges and intersectionality of masculinity, blackness, gentrification, police violence, the prison system, and what it means to be a friend. Above all else, Blindspotting is sincere in a rare way. Buy this ticket as soon as possible.
What Works: A slow-boiling screenplay from Diggs and Casal delivers tension and humor in surprisingly equal measure. Most of all – it’s personal.
This film will be well-liked by many, but can only be loved by natives of Oakland.
Inherent to the DNA of Blindspotting is its devotion to the home city of co-writers and stars Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal. The opening sequence tells the audience all they need to know, showcasing their city in a split screen style montage. They show the good and the bad – the sports fans, the passion, the art, but also the homelessness, the segregation.
This duality is just as integral to their film. Diggs is Black, kind of quiet, takes care of himself, and continues to pay dearly for a one-time mistake. Casal is White, recalcitrant, unhealthy, and seems to suffer little consequence for his nearly-always-terrible decisions. But they are both of-Oakland. And how they deal with their identities and their city is the crux of the story.
How do you handle your city and your identity, each acting as a metaphor for the other, being forced to change? How do you handle the tension caused by them being pulled in different directions? And most importantly – how do you do that amidst trauma?
Amazingly, given the depth of the explored questions, Blindspotting is patient and quiet with its themes. It bops along, following its leads doing menial everyday things, before taking a small moment to have a sincere, tear-inducing hug between exes. This is about Diggs’ life in three days. What happens, happens. Whether it is interesting is not important – it is his life, and the audience does not get to dictate what is seen.
So much of this works because of the excellent cast, with Diggs and Casal playing off one another very naturally. Janina Gavankar and Jasmine Cephas Jones are excellent in their supporting roles, again bringing a nuanced look at what love and support can look like, where lines can and should be drawn.
What elevates the film to greatness is the almost shockingly personal sincerity of its execution. Nothing captures this more than the climax, which has to be seen on the big screen to get the full effect.
If that’s not enough for you, Wayne Knight shows up for about 30 seconds, and that’s never a bad thing.
What Doesn’t: The pacing and call-and-response style of dialogue may not work for everyone, but it’s far from a deal breaker.
By nature of the story, the pacing for Blindspotting is slow-burning. Despite an intense inciting action moment, there is little done with it for the majority of the film. The result for some will be a feeling of “why has nothing happened yet?” It has to be understood that Blindspotting is far less concerned with big moments, and more with the internal movements within Diggs and Casal.
Beyond the Screen: Blindspotting joins Black Panther, Get Out, and Sorry to Bother You as the necessary films of our time.
What films become important, even integral, to a certain period is usually a game of hindsight. Did we know that Iron Man would eventually change the face of film forever? Nope. It was fun though.
Black Panther, Get Out, Sorry to Bother You, and Blindspotting have the honor to be rare exceptions. These films represent something else – obvious milestones, representative of the moment of history that we are living in, and identifiable upon release.
There is no question. They will be taught in film classes and used benchmarks. They represent four very different ways to capture what it is to be Black in America in the modern age. Each is necessary and integrally different.
Black Panther is afrofuturist, and hopeful. Get Out is horrific and metaphoric. Sorry to Bother You is surreal and intersectional. Blindspotting is introspective and cathartic.
Each is powerful but in very different ways. Their success, be it financial, commercial, or both, tear down the archaic and racist notions that Black films could not succeed in Hollywood, that they didn’t matter outside of Black communities.
And that’s a beautiful thing.
“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. Longtime friends and collaborators, Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal co-wrote and star in this timely and wildly entertaining story about friendship and the intersection of race and class set against the backdrop of Oakland. Bursting with energy, style, and humor, and infused with the spirit of rap, hip hop, and spoken word, Blindspotting, boldly directed by Carlos Lopez Estrada in his feature film debut, is a provocative hometown love letter that glistens with humanity.” -Rotten Tomatoes