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Marina Antunes [Film Festival 12.04.12] Canada thriller drama

Let's not mince words here: Sean Garrity is a big deal. With a few feature films and a handful of shorts to his resume, he's just on the brink of international recognition. There's no doubt that had Blood Pressure played Sundance or SXSW, Garrity would be the talk of the town, and for good reason.

Michelle Giroux, in a star making performance, stars as Nicole, a woman trapped in the mediocrity of her life. Her marriage has lost its excitement, she works at a pharmacy where her boss watches her every move and she spends her free time making sandwiches and driving her teenaged kids around town. Her life takes a turn for the exciting when she receives a mysterious envelope. It's addressed to her with no return address and no postmark. Inside is a letter introducing the anonymous writer, simply referred to as "a friend," making it quite clear that whoever wrote the letter has intimate knowledge of Nicole's life. At first she's confused but curiosity eventually gets the better of her and Nicole places the green card that was enclosed with the letter, in her window, an indication that she's open to continued correspondence.

At first the letters seem harmless, the work of an admirer who wants to remain anonymous and Nicole seems to brighten at the attention and care taken by her admirer but as the relationship with "a friend" develops, via a one way letter writing campaign, the gifts and requests become ever stranger. What's interesting is that although the changes in Nicole begin with a gift from her "friend," the bored woman is slowly replaced by a strong, determined one who is unafraid to not only try new things but to take some semblance of control over her life. The change begins to affect her family but truth be told, the trio needed something to make them take note of the woman who has always taken care of them and who along the way, lost herself.

Giroux's performance from mousy pushover to a strong woman is subtle and with every scene she's slightly different, more animated, holding herself up straighter and with more determination. The physical differences are slight but they are hugely effective in providing a physical queue for the internal change she's experiencing. Blood Pressure is so effective in large part to the great script which introduces a mystery that immediately draws you in but it only works if we believe Nicole's actions. It's a fine balance between curiosity and scepticism and the combination of script and performance keep the mystery believable to the final few moments.

Blood Pressure is memorable for a number of reasons. Most notably doesn't rely on big, over blown chase sequences nor does it work up to a shootout showdown between Nicole and her admirer, to keep the audience engaged. Instead, Garrity has faith in his actress and story and builds a fascinating thriller that is both exciting and a quiet exploration of a woman who finds something she didn't know she was missing: herself. It's also fantastic to see a story, which isn't exactly new but which is often reserved for a male character, taken on by a woman. Having a female lead introduces an entire new set of ideas and emotions that would otherwise be lost.

Regardless of whether or not Blood Pressure is seen outside of Canada, it marks the arrival of a filmmaker with great talent who is willing to take chances, I didn't even mention how expertly the voice over is handled or how Nicole's interaction with her family changes though they are all important aspects of the story, and that's exciting.

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