ALL I SEE IS YOU
Director: Marc Forster
Cast: Blake Lively, Jason Clarke, Ahna O'Reilly, Miquel Fernández, Danny Huston, Wes Chatham, Yvonne Strahovski, Xavi Sánchez,
MPAA Rating: (for strong sexual content/nudity, and language)
Running Time: 1:50
Release Date: 10/27/17
Review by Mark Dujsik | October 26, 2017
Sean Conway and director Marc Forster's screenplay for All I See Is You is all over the place. It begins as a primarily visual attempt to imagine what it might be like to experience the world without sight, and yes, the inherent contradiction between concept and approach is something with which Forster clearly struggles. The film becomes one about the re-discovery of sight, and then it boldly moves into much darker terrain.
This is not what we expect, but there's real insight into the way that the relationship between a woman, who regains her eyesight, and a man, who doesn't realize how much he depended on her disability for his own sense of self-worth, changes in ways neither could have expected. It's a surprisingly honest study of co-dependence, insecurity, and control. It's less honest about newfound freedom, which slightly diminishes the main character's role in her own life. To be fair, though, that's kind of the point.
Gina (Blake Lively) wasn't born blind. She became blind after a car accident at a young age. Her parents died, and they were the last thing she saw. Since then, she has married James (Jason Clarke), who works in insurance, and moved to Bangkok for his job. They want to have a child, but all of their attempts have failed so far.
The first act is all about Gina going through her daily routine. Forster and cinematographer Matthias Koenigswieser switch between "objective" looks at the world and subjective shots that either recreate how Gina sees or experiences the world. In the latter sorts of shots, there are abstract tunnels of light and blurry shadows, and a shot, of her swimming in a pool, sees her curling into a ball underwater, as white and fuzzy trails of sound move through the water and encircle her. Her experience of sex is a kaleidoscope of her and James' bodies. The ambient sounds in these scenes are also elevated, as the murmur of crowds becomes a roar and the beeping of cellphones is a constant on a train.
There's something admittedly strange about this approach, if only because it comes across as an almost fantastical way of experiencing the world. Forster doesn't just leave the approach for the subjective shots, either. Bangkok is captured at sharp angles and in kinetic motion in the more objective shots, too. In a way, it almost feels like pandering, especially when comparing the earlier scenes to the relative stillness and far more straightforward look of the shots once Gina has regained her sight.
As to that plot point, a doctor (played by Danny Huston) says that Gina will be able to regain sight in her right eye after a surgical procedure. She does, and as long as she keeps up with a regimen of medicinal eye drops, she'll keep her sight. James is thrilled at first. He books them a vacation to Spain, in order to recreate their honeymoon and to visit Gina's sister Carla (Ahna O'Reilly).
At certain points during the trip, one might recall an exchange between the couple: Gina asks if taking care of her bothers him, and he responds, "It makes me feel special." We might also recall a moment in which James leaves Gina on her own after going to the bathroom in a dance club. He hears her calling out for him, and he just watches as she tries to seek him out among a crowd of strangers.
Things begin to turn. Gina doesn't need James' help anymore. She can do things on her own, and that includes getting drinks from the hotel bar, where a man begins to talk to her. James wants to know about the guy and what they talked about. Gina begins dressing up and putting on makeup, and James compliments her on her appearance in a way that sounds more like a question: Is she really going to wear that and look like that in public, where everyone can see her and where, surely, people will notice her?
Every moment that could be a freeing one for Gina is undercut by James. Talking to strangers is met with barely hidden jealousy. Wearing a slim black dress is met with suspicion. What could be the risqué fun of seeing a peepshow becomes James sulking in the alley. Gina's attempt to take control in the bedroom is met with something approaching whining, as James, bound to the bed and blindfolded, can't handle the idea of losing control in such a way. Gina records that attempt at love-making, and it's telling that James keeps watching the video over and over again. He's not paying attention to how he responded, though. He's looking for clues from her words and reactions, trying to find something that isn't there.
James, through his words and actions, becomes the driving force of the story. There are no sinister plot twists (although there's a clever moment near the end, when a key piece of information is revealed by the camera literally winking at us), because James isn't some extraordinary evil. His is a far more down-to-earth villainy, which sees even the most basic freedom as a threat to himself.
One can't help but think that we're missing something here, and to an extent, we are. Gina remains a bit of mystery. Even though the film is seen from her perspective, its primary attention is on James' behavior. In a way, then, Forster and Conway have undercut their protagonist, too. There's a purpose to it, at least, as All I See Is You examines the previously unspoken power dynamics of this relationship in necessary ways.
Copyright © 2017 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.
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