Think Black Mirror meets Saw. A perfect blend of techno-horror and slow burn thriller with just enough action and dark humour to see audiences through to the end.
Blank follows struggling writer Claire who, in a last ditch move to save her ailing career, checks into a futuristic retreat supposedly tailored to help overcome her writer’s block. Voice activated controls, uncomfortably sentient holograms, and a maid like android intent on ‘helping’ her client comprise our inevitable ‘look into the near future’ that these films provide. It’s an old gag popularised by Charlie Brooker’s hit series Black Mirror, in which scathing social commentary is made by looking to technology recognisable enough to feel possible but not quite close enough to the present day to actually scare us. As is to be expected ‘things go wrong’ (what exactly is left unclear) and Claire is soon trapped in a Groundhog Day situation of gruelling writing torture and isolation.
Blank raises some interesting scenarios for its central character. Dealing with past trauma and an abusive mother this is a film that questions the position of writer in relation to what they write. Is her futuristic nightmare a paragon for her childhood experiences? Is her writing success predicated on being a fraud? How do we respond to entrapment by abusive parental/care figures? These questions are foregrounded and never truly answered in an attempt to get audiences thinking. Whilst the film may not always succeed on this front, every now and then falling into predictability, the inflection of dark humour balances these dystopian elements with a sense of relatability and cynicism.
Director Natalie Kennedy sees this story of entrapment as conveniently “in keeping with what we are going through with Covid” despite being written and filmed before the pandemic. Thematically prescient, this is a story that lacks the nuance and craft of Brooker’s dystopian experiments but delivers on “thriller elements”, startling cinematography and a relatable central protagonist. Speaking before the film Kennedy seemed to revel in the Black Mirror comparisons. Clearly a passionate sci-fi fan, Blank is Kennedy’s first foray into the genre and it’s a wholly successful entry. Entertaining and tense this is tonally magnificent and a must watch; one of MANIFF’s best!
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