By JAMES TUCKER
Starring: Vincent Van Horn, Michael Joplin, Christine Ko
Directed by Tyler Savage
Written by Tyler Savage, Dash Hawkins
Anyone else know what it’s like to look for a fresh start?
I’d say I know the feeling intimately. Which just might be why BLINDERS left such a mark on me. Our main character Andy (Vincent Van Horn) has just moved to Los Angeles looking for a new start after a rather messy breakup, and is trying to put his life back together: he has a new apartment, a job tutoring high schoolers, and he met this wonderful woman Sam (Christine Ko) who he’s started to see.
Enter Roger (Michael Joplin).
The Rydeshare driver who took Andy and Sam home the night they met. The man who Andy just happened to bump into the next day, who memorized his phone number. The man who subsequently lit him up with messages, who gave a drunken speech about how he hates liars, who started to see red when Andy told him he couldn’t hang. Now, because of a chance meeting and a desire to make new friends, Andy has opened the door to a possessive, controlling sociopath who will do anything to make sure he doesn’t lose his new best friend. Andy gave him an inch… and Roger intends to take not just a mile, but everything he loves away from him.
“BLINDERS is here to remind us that everyone is only allowed a partial view of those around them, one curated and manipulated by social media.”
BLINDERS is a legitimately horrifying film, in part because of its intimacy (its keen focus on how Roger has inserted himself into Andy’s life and its morbid fascination with watching Roger burn it down) and in part because of how realistic it feels. People like Roger exist, and watching him fixate on Andy for no logical reason, “act out” when Andy doesn’t respond to his messages, and systematically dismantle this person’s life all because Andy doesn’t want him in it is horrifying with a capital H. Furthermore, the film goes out of its way to show us that in situations like this, victims are more or less helpless; Andy gets fired because of Roger’s antics, his remaining friends and family members are of no help, and the police are not only unable to act against Roger but are aggressively unhelpful. And Andy comes off as a genuinely sympathetic character; his chemistry with Sam feels genuine, and for most of the film you’re rooting for him to beat Roger, to get that second chance he’s looking for. Which makes the film’s slow but sure spiral into chaos so distressing, and lets the ending (which of course throws a couple of well-earned curveballs at the audience) hit as hard as it does.
If there’s one small thing I didn’t love about this film, it was how it chose to handle some of its social commentary. BLINDERS dips a toe into satire every now and then, taking slight tonal detours to put social media and “the rat race” on blast. These usually took the form of brief interactions between the main character and social media obsessed caricatures of characters, from a teen who gives Andy a lecture on how to manage his social media image to an interviewer who can’t sit still enough to properly talk to him. It’s a small complaint, but moments like that felt shallow and unnecessary; the film’s message is that social media is more actively harmful than helpful, that we spend all this time managing our images and it’s all fruitless because everyone is too distracted themselves to care. Everyone, that is, except those looking to do you harm. And the existence of Roger’s character is all that’s really necessary to demonstrate that, not to mention the direction the film takes near its end; the almost surreal, satirical interventions of these side characters feel just slightly out of place. The film stops short of giving an outright sermon on the evils of technology and progress however, choosing to stray (for the most part) from generalized, bloodless critiques of our more interconnected world; no, BLINDERS is here specifically to remind us that everyone is only allowed a partial view of those around them, one curated by social media and whatever they choose to present to the world. Nobody is fully know-able, and nobody is fully known; not even oneself. And that makes everybody dangerous.
All in all, BLINDERS was a solid, scary film that showcased the ways in which our new (mostly online) world makes us vulnerable, and it did so with a tightly plotted, twisty narrative, sympathetic and compelling characters, and an archetypal (and terrifyingly so) antagonist whose comparative facelessness makes him more frightening. If you’re looking for a slow burn neo-noir thriller, BLINDERS might be just the film for you.
Check BLINDERS out at the Austin Film Festival’s Dark Matters Line-Up on October 24th, 10:45 PDT.