Cannes 2023 Review: BLACK FLIES, Intense Portrait of Paramedics' Reality

Tye Sheridan and Sean Penn star in a dramatic thriller directed by Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire, co-starring Katherine Waterston, Michael Pitt and Mike Tyson.

Contributor; Mexico City, Mexico (@EricOrtizG)
Cannes 2023 Review: BLACK FLIES, Intense Portrait of Paramedics' Reality

After some slow-paced films, Black Flies injected a dose of raw intensity to the Cannes International Film Festival.

Director Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire portrays the arduous task paramedics face, especially when dealing with emergencies in a huge place like New York City. Black Flies – whose title refers to the smell of death that attracts flies – follows a rookie (Tye Sheridan), assigned by the boss (brief participation of Mike Tyson) as a partner to the classic experimented veteran, who often follows his own rules: Gene (Sean Penn).

Black Flies finds its power reflecting the brutal level of stress inherent in this profession. The young paramedic played by Sheridan deals with life-and-death situations, extremely hostile people and merciless criminals; even with his own colleagues, who look down on him or play tasteless morbid pranks on him. At one point, Sheridan's release in a nightclub is more than understandable.

Black Flies also shows the camaraderie between Sheridan and Penn (both giving excellent performances) -- which sometimes turns “wrong” with pedophilia jokes or when Gene declares his hatred for bikers -- and part of their personal lives. The young man is still aspiring to obtain a medical degree, while his relationship with a single mother becomes more serious. The veteran adores his little daughter, but is further alienated from her because of his ex-wife’s (Katherine Waterston) new relationship.

Everything is used to highlight that the work of these paramedics, always at the limit and not at all appropriate if you want to develop a healthy relationship, puts them in a dangerous situation: at any moment they could be overwhelmed, "buried" by the sordidness with which they live. Black Flies explores that dark side, which, without a doubt, could be thought of as equivalent to what happens with the police: there are paramedics whose behavior becomes immoral. 

Michael Pitt appears with an antagonistic attitude every time Penn is suspended. And the film takes our veteran co-star to the bleakest place possible.

Although not everything is pessimistic in Black Flies, especially with the character of Sheridan – in addition to the fact that there are also emergency cases with a motivating outcome for the paramedics, whose intention is to help – Sauvaire makes his mission explicit: to raise awareness about those paramedics who are completely overwhelmed. That's something the filmmaker achieves.

Screen Anarchy logo
Do you feel this content is inappropriate or infringes upon your rights? Click here to report it, or see our DMCA policy.
Black FliesCannesCannes 2023Katherine WaterstonMichael PittMike TysonSean PennTye Sheridan

More about Black Flies

Around the Internet