Published Mar 30, 2013Small Blind, the second feature film from Quebecios director, Simon Galiero, is a roughly assembled but timely work with modest, artistic aspirations. Seemingly about politics and the recently economic implosion, it talks about money, juxtaposing the myth of the self-made (wo)man with the unpredictable, oft-cutthroat world of poker, appropriately holding its own hand close to its chest.
It follows Denise (Micheline Bernard), a recently retired CFO of a moderately sized, vaguely defined financial entity, moves from a presumably opulent upper class life back to the blue-collar neighbourhood where she was raised. Having been ostracized from her social circle and family for questionable decisions—involving mass layoffs—at the end of her career, she latches onto her new, less economically viable neighbours, attending poker nights where she demonstrates an aptitude for bluffing, stoicism and coy manipulation.
Galiero's storytelling and Bernard's composed depiction of a shrewd but guarded woman make Small Blind play like a poker hand unto itself. Though we get the impression that Denise sacrificed her corporate image to help her son, Alex (Pierre-Luc Brillant), he, along with her ex-husband—and company founder—Michel (Julien Poulin), harbour unspoken resentment.
Much discussion is had about the ruthless disposition of those working their way up from a low class background, suggesting hypocrisy and dichotomy in modern culture, where the idea of success is championed only until it is achieved. Hostility and ego defensiveness then take over, with the world trying to tear down those that have worked hard to build themselves up.
There's also an implication that success modifies a person's humanity. Denise initially seems meek and polite when socializing with her alcoholic neighbour Paul (Louis Sincennes), treating him as a lost puppy while helping the unfocused and somewhat trashy Eric (Marc Fournier) study for an upcoming exam. But her disposition eventually becomes that of puppet master and manipulator of her new lower class social group, stepping between the drunken Paul and the much younger Julie (Christine Beaulieu), recognizing the unhealthy nature of their flirtation, severing it with all the grace of ripping off a band-aid.
These character complexities and the openness of interpretation is what ultimately saves Galiero's feature from mediocrity. His direction, while competent, lacks any sort of visual trademark, having a laboured, point and shoot tackiness that's exacerbated by a non-existent visual trajectory or consistent lighting. It looks a lot like an early Kevin Smith movie and similarly relies on the actors and the material to elevate it beyond its film school aesthetic.
With a stronger cinematographer and a bigger budget, Galiero could easily make a name for himself on the festival circuit abroad. As it stands, Small Blind works as an intriguing and clever example of talent to watch for. (FunFilm)