What begins as a familiar 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 job as an aerospace engineer, where she’s working on a military drone, over any personal attachments. However, she discovers a newfound pleasure in her life when a secret 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 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 Britain has with Islam. The same misplaced paranoia many people in our culture have towards Islam in the wake of 9/11 and the 7/7 bombing in London is portrayed through Frankie’s own personal fear – especially as only co-workers and family raise similar concerns about Kalid’s identity.
Katarzyna Klimkiewicz weaves effortlessly between these two 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 the activities she feels are suspicious.
But the director’s biggest triumph comes 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 as a society. Much of which is successful because of the McCrory’s stunning performance that’s so human and honest it often becomes impossible to not respond to her distrust.
Flying Blind is a deceptively simple film, but one that provides a timely and involving study of Britain’s paranoid relationship with Islam. It’s an intelligent and surprising debut that leaves much reflect on.