What begins as a conventional story of a teacher-student relationship soon morphs into a thought-provoking political drama in Flying Blind, the intelligently written, expertly directed debut film from Katarzyna Klimkiewicz.
Helen McCrory plays the emotionally distant and often lonesome Frankie who favors her work as an aerospace engineer over any personal attachment. However, she discovers a newfound pleasure in her life when a secret erotic sexual relationship begins with Algerian student Kahil who attends one of her lectures at the local university and is inspired by her commitment to the profession.
However, when the relationship becomes more serious, Frankie realizes how little she knows about the reserved, secretive and mysterious young man she has fallen in love with. She begins, therefore, to fear that Kalid has not chosen to pursue sexual partnership with her because of any feelings of adoration or lust but instead because he desires to acquire secrets about the construction of the aforementioned military drone.
Consequently, Katarzyna Klimkiewicz’s film slowly transforms from a sensual erotic romance exploring the relationship shared between the two protagonists into a politically charged drama that instead explores the relationship ‘White Britain’ has with ‘Islamic Britain’.
After all, the same mistaken paranoia our culture has towards Muslims in the wake of September 11th’s terrorist attacks and the 7/7 bombing in London – how we look upon them with a suspicion that we may not share for our own race or religion – is represented through Frankie’s fear, one that only escalates when her co-workers and family raise similar concerns.
Katarzyna Klimkiewicz weaves effortlessly between these two widely contrasting genres with remarkable control, allowing us to equally understand the passion that Frankie has for the 24-year-old student while holding us in suspense as she becomes increasingly consumed by an unfounded fear, beginning to spy on him and investigate his the activities she deems to be suspicious.
But the director’s biggest success come in the moments that she manages to put us into the shoes of her protagonist; making us share her fear that Kahil is in fact posing as a terrorist. It’s in these scenes that Flying Blind forces us to stop judging Frankie’s actions and reflect on our own similar prejudices. Much of which is successful because of the McCrory’s stunning performance that it is so human and honest it often becomes impossible to not relate to her distrust.
Flying Blind is an intelligent, timely study of Britain’s paranoid relationship with Islam that in spite of its intimacy and simplicity leaves much reflect on. All of which makes for a surprising debut film that greatly defies expectation.