Black Island is a film that acts kind of like a try-before-you-buy scheme for that lifestyle, and it hasn’t sold me on it. It turns out that peculiar locals are nowhere near as exciting as you’d think they’d be when you’ve got no skin in the game.
This review of the Netflix film Black Island (2021) contains no spoilers.
Black Island follows Jonas (Phillip Froissant), an orphan courtesy of a tragic accident in which both of his parents were killed. A year on from that fateful day, he is living with his grandfather (Hanns Zischler) on a remote island and going to school with the dream of one day becoming a writer. As the new school year starts, Jonas’ German class is handed over to new teacher Helena (Alice Dwyer), but not all is as it seems.
Despite getting off to a very depressing start, Black Island features some stunning locations and captures them with cinematography that does them every bit of justice they deserve. Sweeping landscapes and a range of colors that would put a decorator’s paint chart to shame are plentiful, and in all honesty, much of the film could serve as a campaign for the German tourist board. It met and then surpassed the view I have of the country having visited myself, so when you sit there thinking, ‘It surely can’t be that beautiful?’, just know that it is.
And that’s roughly where my love for Black Island ends. It is the film equivalent of a long walk along the beach front to a cafe that is closed for the day when you get there. It presents all of these characters and scenarios that are intriguing for a while, but quickly loses its audience when it provides no follow up. For example, it is clear from the get-go that Helena probably shouldn’t have passed all of the background checks required to work in a school in the first place, but nothing is offered that elaborates on who she is or why she’s there in a way that relates to the wider picture.
This is something that goes for much of the rest of the film. It all seems so randomly thrown together, and because there is so much to try to wrap your head around in terms of rhyme and reason, after a while you stop trying. At one point, it does seem like Nina (Mercedes Müller), Jonas’ best friend/maybe-girlfriend, might actually shed some light on who Helena is and why exactly we should be so concerned about her, but her storyline comes to an abrupt end before we’re given enough of a taste to become invested in the film again.
It’s not until it’s nearly over that Black Island even begins to link together all of its many, many parts. Of course, by this point you’re not that engaged because all it’s been up to now is pretty colours, interesting (terrible) soundtrack choices and a bizarre and sweaty affair between a possible teacher and her student. Whilst I’d like to say the pay-off was worth it when it eventually came, it was not. Perhaps it was because I just didn’t care anymore and was just waiting patiently for the credits to start rolling — I mean, they had to at some point, surely? Or maybe it was because the reveal just wasn’t as clever or original as it thought it was? Either way, I didn’t like it.
If I’m honest, I don’t think Black Island ever had the makings of a great film, but it certainly could’ve been a lot better than it was. It was far too drawn out for its own good, with characters that only seemed to belong together because that was what the script insisted on. Had it fed me a few more breadcrumbs I might have been slightly more tuned in, but that wasn’t the case, and even if it was, we’re probably talking about a few loaves’ worth being required to get the job done.
What did you think of the Netflix film Black Island (2021)? Comment below.