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Aaron J. Widerspahn’s film concerns a man having an existential crisis, a condition likely to affect more than a few audience members having to endure this lugubrious drama. Undeniably well-intentioned and featuring a typically compelling understated performance by David Strathairn in the central role, “The Sensation of Sight” squanders its virtues with its slow pacing, overly long (134 minutes) running time, and a definite leaning towards pretentiousness.
Stathairn, who also produced, plays Fin, a middle-aged high school English teacher who’s been emotionally devastated by a mysterious tragedy for which he feels responsible, the details of which are slowly parceled out in a series of flashbacks. Leaving his wife and son and moving into a boarding house, he begins walking around his picturesque New England town (the film was shot in New Hampshire), wearing a grey suit and sneakers and selling a set of encyclopedias stored in a Radio Flyer wagon.
During his wanderings, he encounters a variety of locals, including a troubled former student (Daniel Gillies); a widowed father (Scott Wilson) and his daughter (Elizabeth Waterston); a single mom (Jane Adams) who takes a romantic interest in him; and a surly drifter (Ian Somerhalder, of “Lost”).
While a pleasure to look at thanks to the terrific cinematography by Christopher Lanzenberg, the film taxes the patience with its elliptical dialogue and confusing narrative structure. Despite the strong efforts of the lead actor and the terrific supporting cast, “The Sensation of Sight” fails to illuminate.
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