Natalie Kennedy’s Blank is the latest addition to the “tech gone wrong” sci-fi sub-genre. This time: an A.I. controlled retreat goes awry after a malware infection traps a creatively-stunted writer, Claire (Rachel Shelley), until they can finish their book. However, the malfunction triggers a loop causing Claire’s “ideal” assistant, Rita (Heida Reed), to frequently reset and welcome in unpredictable and dangerous mechanical quirks.
Many will compare Blank to an episode of Channel 4/Netflix’s Black Mirror. I would as well, but only because the movie resembles the weaker episodes – the more heavy-handed entries. Filmmakers using sci-fi to satirize technology is common, but the best examples use subtleties to draw parallels to reality. The messaging by Blank screenwriter Stephen Herman, with his obvious nods towards why “advanced technology” isn’t always the answer society is looking for, lacks nuance. Claire, during her panic, voices her concerns about the lack of human beings running the retreat, and I can’t help but feel there’s a better way to acknowledge this epiphany. The writing also affects the direction given to Shelley and Reed, and creates too much melodrama in their roles. Wayne Brady, playing a charming hologram who can partially communicate with Claire post-virus, delivers a genuine performance, but it also appears that he’s contributing to a different movie.
As the Claire’s circumstances worsen and the present conditions start to mirror more of her past, the identical qualities are too convenient and the overlapping edits to show timeline comparisons are too cheesy to accept. If Blank had decided to fit the mould of escapist entertainment (like Monolith for instance) or leaned into a bleaker narrative (akin to Aniara), the movie would’ve been more interesting and less self-important.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie