“Blood Cells” is available today on VOD and will be released on DVD by Garden Thieves Pictures tomorrow.
Ten years ago, a tragic incident annihilated what was once a flourishing family farm. Adam (Barry Ward) chose to add as much distance as he could between his home and where he now chooses to live. That is until Adam is beckoned back home by his family when his brother is due to have a baby. With very little money, Adam sets off on a halfhearted road trip that forces him to revisit his past.
Even with its stunning cinematography, “Blood Cells” puts you on edge from its opening sequence. The camera follows a man as he stares off into nothing and is surrounded by the lush countryside. He walks over to a cow stable, grabs a cow, leads it off screen, and puts it out of its misery. He then uses a tractor to lift the cow’s carcass (which is on a wooden pallet, mind you) and burns it. The man watches the fire until it dies; standing completely still and never averting his gaze. A younger version of the main character is then shown standing next to the man and you realize that this is Adam and his father on the family’s farm.
Imagine all of this accompanied with this musical score that is mostly just a constant, unsettling rise from almost a whisper to sub woofer-rattling bass. This film fully embraces a disconcerting atmosphere and utilizes it to its full potential. “Blood Cells” is consistently changing its surroundings and cast of characters, so it never has the chance to be predictable.
Adam constantly drinks himself stupid wherever he goes. The camera is repeatedly positioned ten steps behind him, so you’re always looking at his back. What’s interesting is that everything around Adam is blurry, far away, and out of focus while he remains in the spotlight. It’s as if the world no longer matters to Adam and this is the film’s way of showing you that. An even more perplexing twist is a single shot of Adam staring at his reflection in a rain puddle. The reflection is this picture perfect and almost glass-like representation of Adam. Maybe this puddle is showing the audience what the world really looks like while that hazy representation of it is just how Adam sees it.
Adam is essentially living the life of a drifter in the film. He walks long distances in between taking the bus across the country. He visits old girlfriends, acquaintances he hasn’t seen in years, and a cousin named Keith (Keith McErlean) who just wants what’s best for him. He even buys two underage teenage girls alcohol and ends up talking to them to the break of dawn. Throughout all of this, Adam chooses to be left alone at the end of the day. He has fully accepted the grim routine his life has become. These are all just halfhearted reconnections and temporary distractions from the dismal planet Adam is convinced he lives on.
“Blood Cells” is very much a dramatic film about depression. Adam is devastated over the tragedy from a decade prior. This journey forces him to face the events that occurred and his contributions to it. Running away from it for this long has left Adam in rough shape while looking frayed with graying hair. He’s become this shell of a man and an empty vessel that barely exists.
“Blood Cells” is a bleak and depressing expedition that compels the viewer to observe Adam’s melancholy existence. This film allows you to experience the world through the eyes of a person blinded by depression. If there is light at the end of the tunnel, then “Blood Cells” is one elongated and difficult to endure tunnel. For fans of “Upstream Color,” “Nebraska,” and “Out of the Furnace.”