In Your Eyes: Tribeca Review

Tribeca Film Festival
An odd but wholly commercial romance.

Brin Hill directs Joss Whedon's script about a man and a woman who are linked telepathically.

NEW YORK -- A supernatural romance in which a man and woman who've never met share an inexplicable telepathic bond, Brin Hill's In Your Eyes stars Zoe Kazan and Michael Stahl-David as a pair linked by fate but separated by half a continent. Penned by Joss Whedon and benefiting from flashes of his wit, if not from the bantering energy often found in his work, it's significantly more commercial than Whedon's other recent non-Marvel project, the B&W Shakespeare house party Much Ado About Nothing. Its commercial life will be more interesting given that the film was released immediately following its NYC debut for online rental via Vimeo On Demand.

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Kazan plays Rebecca, wife of an ambitious New Hampshire doctor (Mark Feuerstein) who keeps her on a tight leash and isn't shy about speaking up when one of her occasional seizures embarrasses him in public. Those seizures, which are accompanied by hallucination-like flashes of unfamiliar scenes, are actually connections to moments of pain in the life of Dylan (Stahl-David), a reformed thief living in the New Mexico desert. Dylan feels Rebecca's pain as well, and has ever since a sledding accident she had in grade school.

For some reason, their connection intensifies one afternoon, allowing each to hear the other's voice and establish that they're actual people, not the result of psychosis. They soon become inseparable friends, talking aloud to each other in public (with all the awkward scenes that promises) and literally seeing the world through each other's eyes.

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Rebecca's distraction doesn't go unnoticed: Her husband assumes she's in need of mental-health attention, her society "friends" think she's having an affair. And in a way, she is: Once the two have looked in mirrors to reveal to each other that she's a cutie and he's the hot, sensitive kind of ex-con, it's only a matter of time before the film reimagines phone sex as a kind of telepathic eroticism.

Hill is better at depicting the couple's growing intimacy than fleshing out the forces keeping both from being fulfilled in their here-and-now lives. Feuerstein's character is thin, and his insensitive handling of the couple's disagreements doesn't quite jibe with the more supportive characterization Rebecca offers when she explains her husband's behavior to Dylan. Dylan's world is more easily established, as he's torn between a tough-love parole officer (Steve Harris) and thuggish old buddies trying to coerce him into violating parole with another heist. (A subplot in which Rebecca tries to psychically coach him through a date with a barfly played by Nikki Reed gets plenty of laughs.)

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The film's use of pop songs is unsubtle, but not egregiously so considering the genre. Its strongest moments come at the end, where the romantic comedy's "run to her" convention transforms into a nail-biter of an action-escape sequence. Having already known each other in a way no couple ever has, can a flesh-and-blood meeting ever live up to the anticipation?

Production: Night & Day Pictures
Cast: Zoe Kazan, Michael Stahl-David, Mark Feuerstein, Steve Howey, David Gallagher, Steve Harris, Nikki Reed
Director: Brin Hill
Screenwriter-Executive producer: Joss Whedon
Producers: Michael Roiff, Kai Cole
Director of photography: Elisha Christian
Production designers: Cindy Chao, Michele Yu
Costume designer: Mirren Gordon-Crozier
Editor: Steven Pilgrim
Music: Tony Morales
Sales: CAA

Not Rated, 105 minutes