“All I See Is You” takes an interesting premise and delivers neither drama nor thriller.
When a blind woman named Gina (Blake Lively) receives an operation that restores her sight in one eye, her relationship with her husband James (Jason Clarke) becomes strained. Since she has been blind during the course of their marriage, Gina has never seen James, and when she does see him, she’s disappointed. For their entire relationship, James has taken care of Gina, attending to her every need. And that role had become familiar to him—a comfort that he could count on. Once Gina is able to see, it is as though he’s living with a whole new woman.
At first, the change in Gina is subtle, but then becomes more pronounced. And James can’t handle it. An insurance executive, he’s a conservative guy, both in business and at home. Gina’s new freedom makes her push boundaries especially in the bedroom.
“All I See Is You” could have been an interesting character study in which a new found ability changes a woman’s personality. The visual approach is to tease Gina’s sight both before and after the operation. These scenes are really beautiful but seem lifeless and unconnected. One of the obvious themes being explored is freedom vs. oppression. But instead of drawing the lines clearly, the script from director Marc Forster and Sean Conway tries to play both sides. The result is a very murky morality tale that creeps out so gently that you see it coming from miles away.
Nothing’s shocking, sure, but this film is rather inert. Lively does go for it, but the role fails to make us care for her. And certain key character traits are confusing. If Gina has been blind for a lengthy period, you would think that she would be more capable. But Gina is positively pathetic, which might be insulting to the blind. I suppose to be fair, Gina’s never entirely blind in the film—she appears to see light and dark and colors prior to the operation. More explanation could have helped us appreciate her disability.
Even while watching the movie and occasionally glancing at my watch, I kept thinking that the it looked and felt very much like something that Steven Soderbergh might make as part of his personal film series. And had Soderbergh been writing and/or directing, the dialogue would have been punchier and the pacing more interesting. Something is certainly missing here. The exotic locations (principally, Bangkok) alone should have held viewer attention, but you will likely find yourself wandering.
The cinematography from Matthias Koenigswieser is mighty fine. But director Marc Forster relies on the lovely images a little too much. One wonders if an early draft called for it to be shot entirely from Gina’s perspective. That risk, especially with Lively in the lead, would’ve made producers nervous, but such a choice might have made “All I See Is You,” a word-of-mouth arthouse hit instead of a weak thriller.
One of the interesting visual devices used is a 360 degree camera that James purchases for Gina. Had the movie been entirely told from Gina’s visual perspective, this device would have enabled us to see Gina. And it made me further wonder if there was an early push by the filmmakers to put the viewer more inside Gina’s head so that we could see what she sees or what she doesn’t see. But by constantly flipping between her obscured personal point of view and a fly-on-the-wall perspective, the film confused and annoyed me.
A “weak thriller?” Yep, but those elements are never fully endorsed. And going only half-way contributes to audience frustration. Movies about obsession are nothing new, and even the best of this sub-genre can become exploitive and tip over into camp. But “All I See Is You” is so committed to avoiding cliché that it’s just boring. And with all the talent involved here, putting viewers to sleep has to be some kind of twisted success.