Award Screening: Best Actress, US Narrative Competition: Blame
When precocious and emotionally unstable Abigail (writer-director Quinn Shephard) is cast as the lead in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible over mean girl Melissa Bowman (Nadia Alexander), Melissa and her friends only amplify their abuse. Substitute drama teacher Jeremy Woods (Chris Messina) isn’t completely oblivious. He intervenes and sees talent in Abigail’s total commitment to her new part. When Jeremy’s intentions become cloudy, Melissa spots an opportunity for more potent machinations.
The feature debut for 22-year-old writer/director Shephard, this atmospheric update on The Crucible examines the indelible stain of rumor and suspicion in the contemporary suburban high school. Along with lyrical cinematography by Aaron Kovalchik (shooting in nearby Metuchen, New Jersey), Blame is a riveting showcase for rising talents. Shephard and her co-stars deliver taut performances that delve into the psyches of the cell phone generation. They find how much it takes to drive schoolyard conspiracies beyond what’s tolerated on school grounds.