Reviews: Blood Cells

We review an early screener of Blood Cells. 

"Hi there. This is an ad featuring a ex-hipster
selling some kind of technology."
The drifting drunkard movie has been done to death over the years, including but not limited to Barfly and Leaving Las Vegas.  The latest addition to the ongoing trend of low budget minimalist character studies is Blood Cells, the story of a man who must choose between another beer and his family ties despite his penchant for self-imposed exile.  Written and directed by newcomers Joseph Bull and Luke Seomore (who also provides the film’s ambient electronic score) and financed largely by the elite clothing line GUCCI, Blood Cells is an intentionally understated (sometimes too much so) naturalistic drama that looks and sounds much classier than its content merits.  More of a glitzy travelogue of the outskirts of London and the homeless living in between than a concrete piece of storytelling, it’s one of those movies that draws you in like a magnet technically only to let you down with little payoff.

A sort of half-hearted transposition of Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Leviathan to Great Britain with a dash of Bob Rafelson’s Five Easy Pieces thrown in for good measure, Blood Cells is the cinematic equivalent of a Vanity Fair ad from a visual and editing sense.  It looks gorgeous and the soundtrack of floating ambient veering towards occasionally corrosive industrial creates a rich and pretty atmosphere, yet the story itself is a bit underwhelming in hindsight.  Both the poster and the film itself have the sleek cleanliness of a fashion model coffee table book, minimalist and abstract just enough to suggest something grand which never arrives.  Barry Ward as the troubled protagonist Adam and the supporting cast are quite good and the pathetic wanderer’s lanky and skeletal figure couldn’t help but remind of some of the A&E show Intervention’s darker moments.  While I was drawn superficially into Adam’s cripplingly selfish and short-sighted worldview, I also felt ultimately it was much ado about nothing particularly due to the absence of interior monologue. 

I wanted to sincerely embrace Blood Cells, really I did.  The small town character driven drama with an unlikeable protagonist on a journey in search of his own life affirming answers (and ours) is one of my favorite subgenres which is almost always exemplar of the notion of less amounting to more.  Despite some shocking revelations near the end including but not limited to prostitution, my hands closed on air as Blood Cells achieved conclusion.  For all of the pretty images of British countryside, mountains and montages of lens flares and hyperkinetic as well as naturalistic colors, there’s just not a whole lot going on here and the general response most viewers will have to both Adam’s plight and the film itself is one of apathy instead of empathy.  It’s a shame because it looks and sounds beautiful, if only those traits were put to more efficient use.

-Andrew Kotwicki