out of Five
Running time: 93
Flying Blind is worth seeing for a terrific performance from Helen McCrory, but the central relationship lacks chemistry and the script's refusal to flesh out its characters is ultimately frustrating.
What's it all about?
Directed by Katarzyna Klimkiewicz, Flying Blind is set in present-day Bristol and stars Helen McCrory as Frankie, a middle-aged aerospace engineer who divides her time between teaching at university and helping the Ministry of Defence design more efficient drones. After losing her keys, she is chatted up by Kahil (Najib Oudghiri), a young Algerian man who is one of her students and their flirtation quickly blossoms into a full-blown affair. However, their relationship arouses the suspicions of both her father (Kenneth Cranham) and her superiors at the MoD and soon Frankie becomes paranoid as to Kahil's true intentions.
Helen McCrory is superb as Frankie, portraying a strong, intelligent, capable and sexy middle-aged woman with a performance that quickly makes you realise how rarely such characters are seen on the big screen; the early scenes of her laying down the law to her patronising MoD superiors with a barely concealed ‘Fuck you’ in her eyes are immensely satisfying. Najib Oudghiri holds his own as Kahil and there's typically reliable support from Kenneth Cranham as Frankie's father and from Tristan Gemmill as Frankie's co-worker Robert.
Unfortunately, the crucial ingredient of the film is missing, because there's a significant lack of chemistry between McCrory and Oudghiri; he's cute enough, to be sure, but you never feel that this is a relationship she would be prepared to jeopardise her career for. Similarly, her lack of awareness in that regard doesn't ring true, given what we know of her character.
The film is also let down by disappointingly pedestrian direction, particularly after an eye-opening shot of McCrory standing in a wind tunnel during the opening credits; there's nothing later in the film to match the visual impact of that moment. On top of that, the story wavers between predictability and a sense that it's not really getting its intended message across, while Frankie's lack of backstory (especially with regard to her previous relationships), coupled with the script's refusal to flesh out its supporting characters are both ultimately frustrating.
Flying Blind is worth seeing for Helen McCrory's superb central performance, but the film never quite engages on an emotional level, thanks to an underwritten script and a lack of chemistry between the two leads.