In his latest drama, the first movie directed by Werner Herzog, German director Wolfgang Petersen once again brings a completely new perspective to the art of filmmaking. Called Blood Father, the film's story follows a divorced father, (James Dafoe) and his teenage daughter (Mia Wasikowska) who go in search of their paternal grandfather (Sam Claflin) who has disappeared in Africa. Leaving them in the hands of local guides, the couple travels through the African countryside in search of clues that could help them find their grandfather.
Possible coincidences are introduced by this adventure that brings them face to face with supernatural entities that might take advantage of their situation. However, their quest is not about finding their grandfather but rather about discovering the meaning of life and its connection to Africa. Despite the existence of an inherent evil that finds its way into this film, it is only an invisible one; yet, he is still in every aspect of the story, and that's a good thing for the viewer. He will not know that this is no mere fairy tale and be shocked at what he sees at the end of the movie.
One thing that is left unexplained in the film is the solitary nature of the protagonist, Jim (Dafoe). On the contrary, the way he carries himself throughout the journey is truly remarkable. He is also really vulnerable in front of others, especially his daughter. The strength of his character does not lie in his physical ability and great physical strength, but rather in his humanity, his own psychology and soul.
With the scenes of their journey in the jungle nation of Kenya, the director definitely presents us with a beautiful view of the African land. With its exotic vegetation, brilliant lights, and constant breezes, this setting is just perfect for a filmmaker to play around with. Unlike in other productions, the director takes the time to not only show us the beauty of the scene, but also let us imagine what is beyond the horizon of the camera.
Another challenging but difficult task for a director is the challenge of portraying the close relationship between the man and the daughter. Their romance, which starts off as just a normal relationship between father and daughter, turns into something much more powerful when they discover that the lost paternal grandfather has been with them all along. The roles of the couple are therefore enhanced. The dynamics between the mother and the daughter adds depth to the story as well.
This biopic genre needs to depict a single character who is in a single role. Even though this approach in itself is very challenging, the director managed to be able to do it with great success. In fact, Blood Father succeeds in making the viewer understand why he should take the risk and try out the director's chair instead of just working as a cameraman or a photographer. It has created the world of this film richer than it was before.
Movie buffs would definitely enjoy this film. For newcomers to this genre, it is recommended that they will need to have a bit of patience before getting hooked to it. Since this is a very strong thriller, one needs to remember that one can't expect the movie to open its curtains on time or at the right time.
The director and his cinematographer managed to capture the true essence of what makes this movie a masterpiece. It is a true testament to the perfection of filmmaking that Blood Father is still playing to this day, with its original and touching message.