Katarzyna Klimkiewixz’s directorial debut Flying Blind is a politically fuelled romance with a fine central performance from the exceptional Helen McCrory.
Frankie (McCrory) is a high ranking aerospace engineer contracted with the delicate job of designing new a top secret aircraft for the Ministry of Defence. Shortly after she meets young student Kahil (Najib Oudghirir), and they begin a passionate affair. With Kahil a muslim and Frankie holding such an important position within her industry, not to mention her connection with the military, the people around her start to question both the relationship and Kahil’s intentions.
A film with a plot drawn completely by stereotypes, Flying Blind constantly struggles to find solid ground and tries to convince the audience that it’s much more cutting edge and socially relevant than it actually is. It relies far too much on the well-worn story of a lonely older woman getting drawn into a relationship by a young man because he, to her amazement, sees through her insecurities, making her feel beautiful and wanted. But of course,, he might also have sinister ulterior motives…
McCrory plays it well but it’s all well trodden ground. The film tries to spice it up with the inclusion of the racial stereotypes and the implications of a terrorist agenda but it never becomes anything more than bland and messy. Even more problematically, it accuses characters in the film – and in a way, the audience – of condoning these racial stereotypes, trying to persuade us that we shouldn’t doubt Kahil’s motives. But then it takes the plot in the exact direction you thought it would, playing right into those stereotypes it was previously condemning.
As a story of sexual power and obsession, Flying Blind does mostly work, because Frankie as a character is actually quite interesting. The vulnerability and weakness she shows, especially within the relationship, leads to some nice moments for McCrory to tackle; it’s when that weakness leads to irritation that the film fails. Also, whenever it introduces the political and socially charged aspects of the story, it never creates the atmosphere it wants, dealing more in blunt clichés than anything else.
Flying Blind left me underwhelmed, to say the least. It’s a film that strives to be smart, thrilling and socially relevant but ultimately fails on all these levels.