Have you ever watched a film and then been completely unsure afterwards what it is that you just spent over an hour watching? That’s very much the feeling I ran into after watching Black Bridge – for several reasons. It’s a film that was made in 4:3 aspect ratio, in black and white and is at least a decade old; and in many respects, it’s not really about anything in particular. I’ll try to summarise the plot as best I can.
Loosely speaking, Black Bridge follows a group of teenage heavy metal fans (although the actors all seem to be in their mid-twenties if not thirties) living in mid-eighties Canada, who are embroiled in a war with their local school rivals. However, there is also a local gang that everyone wants to be a member of, the Hell rats, headed up by Vinny G, but our protagonist Adrian is less keen on all the violence and goings on. On top of that, one of the teachers at the school is rumoured to be up to no good with some students, and that teacher’s daughter has a terrible secret. There is also a weird subplot involving ritual satanic sacrifice and a pizza boy as well as the excessive drug use of one of the group who is heading down a dark path.
If that all sounds disconnected and disjointed, that’s because it is. For the vast majority of Black Bridge it seems like a series of vignettes about sitting around and listening to metal while drinking. Much of the acting is amateurish and the budget was clearly very small, but it’s the scripting that doesn’t do it any favours. There’s a stretch in the middle where it becomes confusing who the characters are, and what motivates them which is a cardinal sin in my book. It all comes together in the final ten-to-fifteen minutes and things make sense but even then only after a pretty grim twist (albeit one that is pretty well signposted).
If you don’t take Black Bridge at face value, there are some hints that this was intended as a pitch black dark comedy. The style in which it was made echoes the docu-drama style of films from the mid-90s like Larry Clarke’s Kids, but also ghosts the style of Kevin Smith’s Clerks. There is certainly a theme of isolation and teenage angst, but also some really off-the-wall story developments all wrapped up in some sort of attempt to capture the traditional coming-of-age story. The film is ambitious, and for that it should be applauded, but it’s not necessary able to live up to the heights it has attempted to scale.
Given this film was made thirteen years ago, and it is set in 1984 I am somewhat confused as to why it is now getting a release in the UK. Of the cast involved only Jennifer Pudavick has gone onto any real success (she has a recurring role in Netflix’s Workin’ Moms), while the others are all relative unknowns or have never progressed beyond smaller roles. Black Bridge is nothing particularly special, and could easily pass as a student film which is unfortunate because writer/director Kevin Doherty obviously had some big ideas here that perhaps the budget and the assembled cast were unable to realise.