The Movie Waffler Dublin International Film Festival 2019 Review - BLIND SPOT | The Movie Waffler

Dublin International Film Festival 2019 Review - BLIND SPOT

blind spot film review
Real time depiction of the immediate aftermath of a suicide attempt.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Tuva Novotny

Starring: Pia Tjelta, Oddgeir Thune, Nora Mathea Øien, Anders Baasmo Christiansen, Per Frisch

blind spot film poster

Last year we saw a Norwegian movie, Erik Poppe's Utøya-July 22, which utilised the single unbroken take format to great effect, adding a sense of both immediacy and immersion to a harrowing drama. The Norwegians are at it again with the one-take format in Blind Spot, the writing and directing debut of actress Tuva Novotny and a film with a similarly distressing subject - teen suicide.

blind spot film review

Playing out over 98 real time minutes on a weekday evening in Oslo, Blind Spot's roaming camera begins its lengthy journey on the handball court of a high school. The game concludes and we follow teenager Thea (Nora Mathea Øien) as she walks back to her home, a high-rise apartment she shares with her mother, Maria (Pia Tjelta), and her infant brother. Initially all seems rather mundane as Thea makes a sandwich, which she consumes while half-watching TV, then writes a note in her diary before calling her father, leaving a simple "I just wanted to say goodnight" message on his answering machine. Thea then walks off camera, and we hear the sound of the sliding door that leads to the apartment's balcony. Maria emerges in search of her daughter, and once she sees the open door, she immediately rushes down several flights of stairs, finding her daughter's prone body on the ground below.

Novotny's film takes us from this apartment complex to a local hospital, where doctors work to save Thea while a staff member, Martin (Oddgeir Thune) liaises with Maria and attempts to calm down her irate ex-husband Anders (Anders Baasmo Christiansen). Along the way, revelations regarding the family's history are brought to the surface.

blind spot film review

The single-take format has its strengths and weaknesses, and Novotny's film both benefits and suffers from its application here. Long takes are very effective for building tension, creating the idea that a filmmaker is forcing us to stay in the moment because they're about to spring something awful on us. As such, the movie's opening - Thea's long walk home to her shocking act - is unbearably ominous. There's another moment where refusing to cut works well as Martin leaves Maria to check on the progress of her daughter. As the camera stays with the medical professional, we see the optimistic facade he's presented to the distraught mother drop as he faces the reality of how dire the situation really is. As the camera stays with him on what feels like a tortuous walk back to update Maria, we really feel the emotional toil his line of work must take on him.

Elsewhere however, the unbroken take proves unnecessarily distracting, and at times Novotny's camera struggles to cover all the actors assembled in a room, a problem that wouldn't exist if conventional cuts were employed. It also makes the timeline a little confusing, as while the movie plays out in real time, we're so accustomed to fragmented time in cinema that it feels like a drama whose course runs for several hours, rather than a mere 98 minutes. At one point Maria decides to go home to be with her son, who is being looked after by a neighbour, but she's only been at the hospital for roughly an hour at that point, and I couldn't buy that she would leave her daughter so quickly. It was as if Novotny forgot her movie was playing out in real time!

blind spot film review

Remove its stylistic conceit and Blind Spot is little more than a bottle episode of a TV hospital drama (one that takes place in the screen's quietest hospital since Halloween II). What keeps us engaged is the quality of the performances. Tjelta is given the difficult task of maintaining a level of distress in real time for the bulk of the film, but she's thoroughly convincing. Yet even her impressive performance is harmed at one stage by her director's refusal to cut. On a taxi ride back to her apartment, Novotny frames Tjelta in a profile close-up that lasts for at least five minutes. For the first few minutes we see a myriad of emotions run across the actress's face, but the shot is held so long that eventually we start to disengage and find ourselves pondering if Tjelta is really just wondering whether she left the oven on at home.

A UK/ROI release has yet to be announced.

2019 movie reviews