What starts as a sexy, May-September romance turns into an involving and studied look at post-911 prejudice and paranoia. Flying Blind (2012) is the feature-length debut of Polish shorts director Katarzyna Klimkiewicz, and features a career-best performance from Brit Helen McCrory.
McCrory plays Frankie, a successful middle-aged employee of an aerospace company who have landed a lucrative contract to design surveillance drones for the military. Her single life enables her to also work as a part-time university lecturer, where she meets and embarks on a passionate affair with twentysomething French/Algerian student, Kahil.
Invigorated by her newfound happiness with Kahil – a fact which doesn’t escape her protective father (Kenneth Cranham), a retired aeronautical engineer – all appears to be going well until one day she is detained upon entering work and briefed by the security services on her lover’s (possible) ulterior motives. Flying Blind is the product of a microbudget filmmaking scheme in Bristol, and director Klimkiewicz has done wonders with her visibly limited funds. It’s a handsome-looking, stylishly-shot piece of work, and DoP Andrzej Wojciechowski (another feature first-timer) brings much character to the city’s waterfront locations, and captures a stark, ominous feel in Frankie’s workplace.
However, what ultimately propels Flying Blind from being another solid BBC Two drama to a gripping big-screen tale is the outstanding performance from McCrory. She has a Charlotte Rampling-like quality, and remains extremely captivating whilst doing very little. Her character’s journey is compelling enough even before the thriller machinations (subtle as they may be) are introduced. Klimkiewicz is also aware of the strong lead she has, taking time to let the story play out, and framing her star in mostly unflinching close-ups.
Co-star Najib Oudghiri may not be quite up to McCrory’s standard, acting-wise, but he still manages to make a decent fist of his role, and the two of them have great chemistry together, particularly during their more overtly erotic interactions. Like last week’s Chilean family drama, Thursday Till Sunday (De jueves a domingo, 2012), Flying Blind introduces yet another new and exciting female filmmaker with a distinctive voice, and she’s equally complimented by a stunning turn from her lead actress. A promising debut from Klimkiewicz.