Black Box

  • 14 Nov - 20 Nov, 2020
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Reviews

After earning festival exposure with short films, Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour makes a solid feature directing debut with the absorbing mind-bender Black Box. The thriller starts out with a firm footing in horror and becomes less distinctive as it shifts into more psychological and sentimental terrain. Still, the confident storytelling keeps you watching, as well as strong performances from Mamoudou Athie as a widowed amnesiac and Phylicia Rashad as a brilliant brain specialist playing God. News photographer Nolan (Athie) is introduced shedding tears of joy as he holds his baby daughter for the first time. That pixilated image is swiftly revealed to be video he's watching on a laptop. Like the family photo album he flips through, it's part of an ongoing effort to jog his memory. Nolan lost his wife Rachel (Najah Bradley) in a car accident that he survived, albeit after a concussive trauma left him in a coma for three days and declared brain-dead before unexpectedly regaining consciousness. His amnesia means his daughter Ava (Amanda Christine), now elementary school-age, has had to become the grown-up of the household, drilling him on basic routines, coaching him for professional meetings and curbing his inexplicable impulses to do things that were never part of his pre-injury life, like smoking. Given his lack of progress with multiple medical consultations, Nolan's doctor buddy, Gary (Tosin Morohunfola), encourages him to see Dr Lillian Brooks (Rashad), a renowned neuro-psychiatrist working at the same hospital, who has had significant success with an experimental program in memory retrieval. She hooks him up to a black box device that induces hypnosis, transporting him into a virtual headspace from which he can access various blocked memory pathways by clicking the crown on an analog watch. As Nolan's black box sessions continue he becomes more disturbed by inexplicable elements like an apartment he never lived in and signs of physical violence toward his wife, something Gary assures him he would never have done. A violent presence in Nolan's memory bank starts taking over, though Osei-Kuffour's restraint as a director keeps the scare factor to a minimum. But its novel to see a journey into the subconscious in which the cool sci-fi elements depict a world, only marginally, more technologically advanced than our own.

– Compilation