Movie Review: 'The Blackout'
Hurricane Sandy provides the backdrop for an authentic conversation about life, romance, and vulnerability in The Blackout.
The Blackout is a charming movie filled with characters who are smart, intelligent and romantic. This tiny, low budget, drama about friends gathering for a party in a New York City apartment just as Hurricane Sandy is hammering the City is filled with heart, romance, humor and genuine heartfelt emotion. I mean this in the kindest way possible, the movie is reminiscent of a millennial take on The Big Chill, minus the pretension and the killer soundtrack that outshines the actual movie.
The Blackout is an ensemble drama ostensibly led by Leah Henoch as Zoey. We meet Zoey as she appears to be returning from some kind of Hurricane Sandy themed Halloween party. She’s literally wearing a Sandy themed costume and it’s not explained why. This is even more odd and yet charming because she’s returned home and is readying for yet another themed party related to the actual arrival of Sandy. Again, this is not commented upon, it merely is something that is happening and I was intrigued.
Zoey is at a crossroads with her roommates, Liza (Hillary Anne Matthews) and Jen (Tess Paras). Zoey’s decision to move out of their shared apartment means they all have to find a place to live in one month. Liza and Jen are miffed about having to move and that Zoey is leaving with no plan or place to go for herself and no explanation as to why she’s going. That tension is simmering as the party goes on. But again, this is merely presented without being the central theme of the movie, it’s an incident.
Attending the party are friends, strangers, neighbors and tagalongs. Notable among the ensemble are a pair of brothers of foreign descent. Enzo (Alexander Chard) and Paolo (Avi Rothman) are from Italy by way of Australia and Asia. The brothers have the same father but different mothers. They’ve traveled to America together to get to know each other and they met Zoey at a coffee shop in Zoey’s building. The coffee shop owners are Joe and Tim (Brandon Kyle Goodman and Marc Underhill) who are also attending the party.
I could spend most of this review naming and describing the remaining cast of The Blackout but we need to move on. This disparate group, among those who actually know each other have interconnected romances, relationship dramas and simmering tensions and not all of it is examined with much depth but all of it creates the sense that there is so much history here without spending much time laying that history out.
The Blackout was written and directed by Daniela De Carlo and her script is brilliant at showing rather than telling. We see the relationships, we are given many details about the characters via their actions, looks, gestures and the things said without words. It’s such a lovely way to watch a movie. It’s still a dialogue driven movie because we are stuck in this one apartment for the majority of the movie but so much of the drama is implied and indicated by action.
The dramatic centerpiece of The Blackout is a lengthy confessional game that the guests play. One by one, each character is asked to reveal something about themselves they’ve never revealed before and the revelations are wonderfully detailed. The actors render lovely vulnerability while relating stories as if they were real anecdotes about real life. No one deflects this intimate moment or tries to run from it and when the game is interrupted while Jen is speaking, this is a plot point and plays into revealing something about Jen later.
I love the subtle detail of that, how reflective it turns out to be about a character who, early on, is defined by her friends as being a worrywart overly preparing for the hurricane. The character reveals that she has more to her than just her meticulousness but it’s not done by her proclaiming anything but through tangential dialogue and her relationship with a male character attending the party who has a history with her and hopes for a romantic relationship.
Like I said, I find this to be a lovely and authentic way to tell a story. The ways in which we communicate without simply stating what it is we are thinking, how we deflect and reveal our thoughts with actions, that’s beautiful and often overlooked in the bombastic world of movies. Daniela De Carlo is a remarkable talent and for her to tell this story so succinctly via so many characters and so much dialogue and yet still leave us feeling like we know and enjoy these people, is incredible.
The Blackout is a charming feature now available on-demand via Amazon and other services.