Written by Quinn Shephard (from a story by Laurie Shephard & Quinn Shephard)
Blame, is a stylish, subversive, sophisticated coming-of-age debut that announces Quinn Shepard as a director with a bright future. She also stars as Abigail, a gifted, emotionally fragile girl returning to high school after suffering a mental breakdown. In theater class, an attractive substitute teacher named Jeremy Woods (Chris Messina) assigns The Crucible, casting Abigail as the onetime servant and former lover of John Proctor, Abigail Williams. Abigail dives deep into character with a nearly religious devotion, and her obvious talent, mysterious beauty, and dedication transfix Jeremy. He makes the mistake of casting himself as Proctor, creating deeper confusion for the steadfast Abigail in bringing The Crucible to life. As everything falls apart around him, Jeremy is given the opportunity to find his moral compass and see the truth for what it is.
Melissa, Abigail’s understudy, is a troubled girl who bullies her rival, and desperate for Jeremy’s attention, determines to find a way to bring Abigail down at any cost. Abigail proves to be far more a worthy adversary than Melissa expected, however, but a secret Melissa reveals exposes an ugly truth. Like any witch trial, Blame has nothing to do with witchcraft and everything to do with what gets projected onto teenage girls, and the profound harm it causes. Nadia Alexander won Best Actress in a U.S. Narrative Feature Film for the role of Melissa, and it’s easy to see why she went home with the prize.
Shepard wisely places this story in the right setting. Hysteria, accusation, intolerance, and envy define the average suburban high school, and with smartphones and social media, the timeless story of The Crucible is allowed to play out in unprecedented ways. Shepard seamlessly blends the bold retelling with authentic story-telling; everything her characters do and say feel like things teenagers actually say and do every day. Beautifully shot with clear, stirring imagery by Cinematographer Aaron Kovalchik, Blame feels all grown up, unlike the burgeoning creative force behind it. At 22. Quinn Shepard has written, directed, and starred in one of the best films at Tribeca Film Festival.