5 out of 5 stars (One of the best movies I’ve ever seen)
It’s funny how we as a culture place emphasis on certain films, books, video games, etc. The Harry Potter book series was claimed “important” because it increased national reading averages; Black Panther has been deemed “important” for bringing up race issues in a mainstream film, and so on. While I certainly appreciate both of those properties for what they did, there is a new film that truly is important and necessary. It’s not from a big Hollywood studio, doesn’t have huge stars, and its director is a rising talent with only 2 short films to his name. That film is Blink, an intense, unflinching examination of domestic violence that should take the nation by storm. It doesn’t have superheroes, fantasy creatures, or even that large of a budget; it’s a grounded, wholly realistic portrayal of domestic abuse that purposefully makes you uncomfortable. As the tagline says, “You are me, or you know me”.
The film follows Nailah Belle (Bianca Siplin), a schoolteacher married to Chris (Will Scott). On the outside, their marriage is idyllic: they both have successful careers and live in a nice house in a middle-class neighborhood. But in reality, their relationship is an abusive one, with Chris physically, mentally, and emotionally beating her. Nailah feels helpless, wooed by Chris’s promises of love, but terrified of his anger. Even the arrival of Chris’s brother Derreck (Courtney Glaude), and a new student teacher counselor (Pamela Jarmon-Wade) offer little help, as Nailah knows that everything can change in just one blink.
Blink should be seen by everyone, as it fearlessly explores its topic with honesty, grit, and realism. This dedication to reality is nearly unprecedented in modern film making, and should ensure Glaude has a very long career ahead of him. Velma Trayham, CEO of Thinkzilla PR & Consulting Group said, “It’s a serious subject matter addressed with tact, but in a manner that gets your attention. Courtney JaPaul Glaude does an amazing job with the writing of what sadly is reality for many women.”
The lead performances are nothing short of brilliant. Siplin has a very tough role to play here, having to convincingly sell the physical, emotional, and psychological pain of an abuse victim while also hiding that behind a bright smile for the world to see. I’ve seen several films and TV shows attempt to cover domestic abuse that bomb because of their failure to make me understand why the woman wouldn’t leave her husband or call the police. Blink succeeds by outlining the numerous complicated reasons why she would stay while always keeping her sympathetic, and Siplin’s performance is the most emotionally powerful I have ever seen.
The same goes for Scott, who can switch from charismatic to monstrous at the tip of a hat. I spoke with Scott on the red carpet about getting into the mindset of playing this character, and he said, “Forget who I am. Everything good in me I had to push it out. After I went back home, I had to tell myself.. I am a good guy, I’m not an abuser.” He also hopes that the abusers “will see themselves and know that they need help”. That positive demeanor evaporates in the film; Scott sells us as the audience that he can put on a “mask” of confidence at work so no one suspects anything, and he succeeds flawlessly.
Glaude’s writing and direction are mostly superb. A majority of the dialogue is mundane and natural, and the cinematography gives it the feel of our world without resorting to shakeycam. For the first time in years, I felt like I was actually watching real people have real conversations about real things, not watching a film. I also have to commend the musical score and palpable tension Glaude creates whenever the couple is together. Like Nailah, you don’t know what will set Chris off, hoping that he won’t beat her, but knowing deep down that it will come. That’s a powerful talent that most directors would only dream of having, and Glaude accomplished it with his first feature film (he previously directed and wrote 2 shorts that won big at short film festivals).
This is ordinarily where I would highlight the film’s flaws. While there are some minor issues on the technical side, they are expected of a first-time director and do not hurt the overall message in any way. I am of the belief that no movie is perfect, but imperfections can occasionally be looked over if the film’s overall impact is strong enough to warrant it. I know I recently got onto critics for looking over Black Panther’s flaws, but that was a $200 million movie with Hollywood backing, and this is an independent film with an uncompromised vision that says something that everyone needs to hear.
To those people who may look at this and attempt to label it a “black movie” because of its director and cast, let me assure you: This has crossover appeal. Race and cultural background do not matter: We all either have experienced personally or know someone who has experienced domestic violence. I am truly sad that this wasn’t released during the Oscar poll season, because I believe it would get the kind of attention awarded to big budget affairs. While I normally have no interest in the indie film circuit (given that most of the directors on it are more focused on artsy camerawork than investing me in their story or characters), Blink is absolutely an exception to the rule.
Blink is emotionally heartbreaking, with flawless lead performances and notable writing. Courtney Glaude places you in the real world, following real human beings, and forces you to face a side of that world that you’d rather ignore, and has that most gut-punching ending I’ve seen in many moons. Its small technical flaws do nothing to detract from its overall message and blunt impact, something that my readers know I’m not usually forgiving of. Blink is a masterpiece that should be seen worldwide so that we can start to have a legitimate conversation about domestic violence rather than act like it doesn’t exist. In a time when several hot-button issues are being brought to the forefront of our cultural consciousness, Blink should not be ignored.
See my review of Black Panther here