DIFF Review: Blaze

Ethan Hawke assumes the director’s chair and delivers one of the most interesting and endearing biopics in recent memory.

In the Q&A following the film’s UK Premier at the London Film Festival, Ethan Hawke cited how simple it sometimes was to convince fellow cast and crew members to join the production. He would simply play Blaze Foley’s music for whomever he was speaking to, and sure enough there would be an instant attraction that brought them on board. The same holds true for anybody who enters the theater to merely watch this film. Surely, many will be hesitant to see Blaze on the basis that it is a biopic of a lesser known, old school, folk and country musician, but do not let a lack of familiarity in such niche musical genres deter you. All it takes is one song for Blaze to draw anybody into its whiskey soaked world of music, love, and the legends.
Contrary to most biopics, the story is told in a non-linear fashion that breathes fresh air into a genre that often times feels painfully generic. The film continually bounces back and forth between three different points in time; the early days of Blaze’s career and his budding relationship with his future ex-wife; the last performance he gave on the night he died; and a radio interview with two of his bandmates following his murder. Although the scattered structure may reduce from the pure shack value of some later happenings, it effectively allows the tragic nature of Blaze’s life to fully realize itself. We see him at the highest of highs one moment, at the lowest of lows the next, and then we get to track his progression from one state to the next in the time in between.

With how interesting of an individual Blaze Foley is portrayed as in this movie, it’s a wonder that this film didn’t come earlier. He constantly fluctuates between a hopeless romantic, tortured artist, existential explorer, and doomed alcoholic. Thanks to an incredible breakout performance from Ben Dickey, every portrait painted of Blaze is as convincing, entertaining, and as well executed as the next, and our infatuation with trying to decipher who he really is never diminishes.

Foley dreamed of becoming a musical legend, and the film’s script reflects this in its attention to storytelling amongst the characters in the film. Time and again, Foley, his band members, his girlfriend, and a host of other characters reminisce of times gone by and the great memories they shared with Blaze. The result is a true sense of folklore surrounding Blaze, which proves that although he may not be known as one of the musical heavyweights of all time, he is a legend in his own right. Maybe in time, Blaze will solidify itself as one of the most intriguing and uncompromising biopics of this generation, and give the late musician his rightful place in the history books of another art form.

By: Quinten Sansosti

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