Cannes: Review of Jean-Stephane Navaire’s ‘Black Flies’

Cannes: Review of Jean-Stephane Navaire’s ‘Black Flies’
In all forms of storytelling – song, film, novel – there must be good pacing. There needs to be highs, lows, and lulls. Too much too soon, or too little too late, or worse – too much all the time, doesn’t suit a story. Parisian native Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire’s Black Flies, starring Sean Penn, was too heavy on the highs; it was a high-intensity, high-drama, high-stakes (literally life or death!) repeatedly. It was an intense and well-made drama about EMTs working in Brooklyn that left me feeling like I needed to go on a meditation retreat afterward. The flashing lights, the noise of the sirens, and all the medical-related, life-or-death issues shown onscreen were good filmmaking and draining and gloomy. The film is based on the 2008 book of the same name, which former New York City ambulance driver Shannon Burke wrote. View this post on Instagram A post shared by Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire (@jeanstephanesauvaire) Black Flies tells the gruesome tale of two FDNY paramedics, Gene “Rut” Rutkovsky (Sean Penn) and rookie Ollie Cross (Tye Sheridan). In a well-casted turn, boxer Mike Tyson lights up the screen as Rut and Ollie’s superior, Chief Burroughs. Sheridan, a relative newcomer among heavy hitters Tyson and Penn, is best known for his starring role in Ready Player One (2018). Rave reviews poured in for Sheridan after screenings of Black Flies at Cannes. The young actor brought tremendous depth and emotion to a very heavy, very heartbreaking role. Ollie is a young paramedic who is finding his footing in the profession and studying for the MCATs. He lives in a cramped apartment in Chinatown, sleeping on a mattress on the floor. Ollie’s life is limited to work and not much else. He’s a seemingly quiet type without much of a social life, save for a “situationship” with a woman he meets at the club. Later, Ollie hurts her during an intimate moment. She tells Ollie he needs help, and “please stop calling me.”

Lead photo credit : Black Flies Photo from the press release

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Anne McCarthy is a contributing writer to BBC News, Teen Vogue, The Telegraph, Dance Magazine, and more. She has a Masters in Creative Writing from the University of Westminster and is the Editor in Chief of Fat Tire Tours’ travel blog. She lives in New York City.