'All I See Is You': Film Review | TIFF 2016
What seems a perfect union between Blake Lively and Jason Clarke hits a rocky patch when her sight is restored after years of blindness in Marc Forster's psychological thriller.
Blake Lively might have been better off swimming with that shark in The Shallows than subjecting herself to the gummy toothlessness of Marc Forster's wet psychodrama All I See Is You. Playing a woman blinded as a child and now living with her husband in Bangkok, she undergoes a successful corneal transplant to restore her sight, only to discover that clarity of vision exposes the cracks in her marriage. Or something like that. The Southeast Asian setting has minimal relevance, beyond recalling the Pang Brothers' The Eye. That 2002 horror chiller and its sequels unleashed post-blindness visions of ghostly nightmares that were far more memorable than this underheated intrigue.
Actually, the special end-credits thank you to the people of Thailand is a head-scratcher since we see only marginally more of them than Lively's blind Gina does. She and her husband James (Jason Clarke) live there because of his apparently big-deal job in insurance, so I guess it makes sense they would mix with other ex-pats. While Gina is shown listening to a teach-yourself-Thai course at one point, her only real interaction with a local is giving guitar lessons to an English-speaking kid next door (Kaitlin Orem).
The tonally vague script by Sean Conway and Forster signals its overripe fascination with sex from the outset, as Gina and James get it on while the blurred images in her eyes give way to a picture of herself amid a writhing sea of naked men — like a pervy version of one of those art happenings by New York photographer Spencer Tunick. The fact that his wife can feel but not see seems to feed James' sexual pleasure, and he can't hear enough details about what she "sees" when they make love. Not that any of that helps with their so far fruitless attempts to have a baby.
Because this movie makes it seem that Bangkok is on the cutting-edge of world medical technology, Gina quickly finds herself at the top of the waiting list for a revolutionary corneal transplant. The doctor (Danny Huston) assures her that only one eye is operable but with surgery and a course of steroid drops to follow, she should expect vastly improved vision immediately. Since she's yearning to see color again post-surgery, James takes her to the local flower market, in a scene that might be the movie's most concrete justification for its setting.
As hints start surfacing that James is having trouble relinquishing his role as the no-longer-dependent Gina's eyes, they jet off to Spain, which everyone knows is a land of torrid passions and combustible sexual heat.
They stay in Barcelona with Gina's sister Carol (Ahna O'Reilly) and her husband Ramon (Miguel Fernandez). Like all men called Ramon, he's a wild and sexual free-spirit artist, who takes them carousing through the teeming nighttime streets and whisks them off to a peep show. Uptight James waits outside while Gina gets a one-eyed view of a woman in a pig mask being shtupped from behind, something that definitely wasn't in the Spanish Tourist Board brochure. The real purpose of the trip, however, was to revisit the scene of the accident where Gina lost her sight and her parents, a return to the painful past that yields surprisingly little in dramatic or emotional terms.
Back in Bangkok, Gina explores her new surroundings with heightened senses. She also goes blonde and starts dressing more provocatively, which James finds disconcerting. Clearly, this Gina is no longer the easily malleable wife he signed up for. He learns, from another top doctor in another steel-and-glass tower of advanced medical technology, that the couple's failure to conceive is on him. But lazy swimmers will definitely not be a problem for hunky Daniel (Wes Chatham), another American who uses the pool where Gina exercises; a friend has already told her he's packing serious equipment in his Speedos, which maybe now Gina's newfound freedom will allow her to see for herself.
It's around this time that the movie morphs from sluggishness to confused ludicrousness, as it turns into a thrill-deprived thriller. Gina begins to lose her vision again, and while the doc stands by the success of his surgery, it appears that the drops she's been using may be the problem. Has James been tampering with them? Or has Gina been self-sabotaging in an effort to restore the former balance in her marriage? And is Daniel an obsessed stalker? Honestly, there's not nearly enough tension here to make you care, or to make it worth sifting through the final act's tangle of ambiguities.
Had the performances been more interesting, the lame script might not have been such an insurmountable problem. But Lively doesn't do much to stretch her limited range, while Clarke shows none of the dangerous edge that has made him a distinctive screen presence in other movies. And their chemistry together isn't exactly cooking. The relationship might have benefited from some script exploration of what drew them together in the first place, and of the ways in which James adjusted to Gina's sightlessness early on.
Forster seems endlessly fascinated by the tactile sensations and disorienting mind state of navigating the world without sight, so the early part of the film in particular is filled with Gina's blurry perceptions of a strange, densely populated city, full of abstract shapes and details that coalesce and evaporate in an instant, all of it echoed in matching sonic textures. That altered state is contrasted with high-rise buildings and office blocks shot by Matthias Koenigswieser with a cold, somewhat anonymous sheen. But whatever is happening onscreen, there's very little here to engage the mind, making it more tempting to close your eyes and surrender to the blind blur of sleep.
Venue: Toronto International Film Festival (Special Presentation)
Production companies: SC International Pictures, Wing & a Prayer Pictures, 2Dux2, Link Entertainment
Cast: Blake Lively, Jason Clarke, Ahna O’Reilly, Danny Huston, Yvonne Strahovski, Wes Chatham, Miguel Fernandez, Kaitlin Orem
Director: Marc Forster
Screenwriters: Sean Conway, Marc Forster
Producers: Marc Forster, Craig Baumgarten, Michael Selby, Jilllian Kugler
Executive producers: Brian Wilkins, Ron Perlman, Renee Wolf
Director of photography: Matthias Koenigswieser
Production designer: Jennifer Williams
Costume designer: Frank L. Fleming
Editor: Hughes Winborne
Music: Marc Streitenfeld
Casting director: Pam Dixon
Visual effects supervisor: Janelle Croshaw
Sales: WME, Sierra/Affinity
Not rated, 111 minutes