When approaching any piece of media, I always like to look at its plot and execution of that plot. Sometimes a film/TV show or video game can get both of these aspects correct, sometimes they get both completely wrong or only get one right, which is where that media can show potential instead of just being categorised as simply bad or good. Either way, I will always try and be fair to that media. And Black Medicine is no exception.
Black Medicine follows a black-market medic who carries out illegal operations for the criminal underworld. When she gives refuge to a young girl, she must choose between breaking her medical oath or crossing her ruthless employers.
For a film that has an interesting plot, it is a shame that its execution is extremely dull.
The main character, Jo (Antonia Campbell-Hughes – Rare Beasts), has an interesting background and job role: she’s turned to drugs after the divorce of her husband and death of her teenage daughter, whilst still carrying out her profession. She’s a sympathetic character and, as a doctor, doesn’t judge her patients when they turn up at her makeshift operating room. This crosses over into her personal life when Áine (Amybeth McNulty – Stranger Things) suddenly shows up unexpectedly. She doesn’t judge why the teenager is hiding away and immediately does her best to help any way she can. This could be seen as reflection of her code as a doctor, which is to care and be responsible for the health of a patient the moment they are taken into a doctor’s care.
The plot revolving around Áine is certainly an interesting one too, and brings up a moral dilemma: how far would someone go to help their sick child? And unfortunately, Áine is involved in this dilemma, at first, by choice. And, like Jo’s arc, this is intriguing and another part of the film that I enjoyed. So, the plots and character arcs are fantastically written, and interesting. However, a film also needs to execute its story well too, and this is where Black Medicine falls apart.
The acting is not actively bad, but it is completely forgettable. Antonia Campbell-Hughes tries to act her way through the script but seems to forget how to emote throughout most of the runtime. And, while it can be argued that she has experienced trauma or is unemotional due to her habits, it does get dreary, as she continues to react to situations with the same blank stare. Not that I suggest she smile, but much clearer emotions, at times, would’ve worked better in conveying how she felt about the situations she puts herself in. Amybeth McNulty is the standout here, if there is one at all. She also does her best with the dialogue she is given and is convincing in her role.
And, once again, the plot is interesting. However, this is a film that needs a much faster pace than it is actually given. At 90 minutes, its pacing drags, and it feels a lot longer than the actual runtime. And some films work as a slow-paced drama; this film just did not at all.
Black Medicine has an interesting plot, but its execution makes it a missed opportunity. Its unwarranted slow pacing and dull lead actress makes this film a slug to get through, which is a shame. If you’re just wanting a very slow-paced film to pass the time, then this does a fine job. However, I can’t help but feel that this could’ve been executed better.
Signature Entertainment presents Black Medicine on Digital Platforms from 12th July, 2021.