Blank review – author held hostage by AI as near-future thriller enters Misery territory


In a project clearly influenced by the repetitive nature of lockdown, Natalie Kennedy’s science fiction psychological thriller follows Clare Rivers (played by Rachel Shelley), an author struggling with writer’s block. She joins a luxurious writing retreat run entirely by artificial intelligence, but is unexpectedly trapped inside by a virus that disrupts the system. In order to leave, she must complete a book, creating a story that combines elements of Misery and Ex Machina.

In a fictional setting set in the near future, writing is done using holographic word processors and artificial intelligence assistants instead of traditional methods like notebooks and snacks. It appears that the profession has evolved, but this may not be entirely true. The main character, Clare, is struggling with writer’s block and her situation is made worse by being trapped with a malfunctioning android named Rita. Rita resets every day and will only unlock the doors once Clare has completed her writing tasks. Despite Clare’s frustration, Rita can only offer unhelpful advice such as, “You seem upset. Maybe you should rest.”

Due to its focus on technology, Blank is already considered outdated for not addressing concerns about AI potentially surpassing human creativity. Instead, it draws similarities between Clare’s imprisonment and flashbacks to her childhood, where her mother Helen (Rebecca Clare-Evans), who is both abusive and blind, holds her captive and forces her to transcribe her own writing. However, the comparison between captive and writer does not fully resonate because Clare’s writing abilities are not questioned in this aspect of her past. Rather than delving into the complex inner workings of writing and creativity, Blank often relies on predictable plot devices as Clare attempts to escape from the compound.

However, when it poses a thought-provoking question about the correct ending, Kennedy’s movie starts to come together. Shelley, who is most recognized for her role in the TV show The L Word but has not been seen on the big screen since 2001’s Lagaan, petulantly unravels, providing an effective contrast to Reed’s diabolical control. There are a few moments of clever directing, such as a shot from above the typewriter, in this mix of meticulous thriller and emotional drama, which at least has a sense of human energy and scope in the making.