ALL I SEE IS YOU **** USA / Thailand 2016 Dir: Marc Forster. 109 mins
Tagline: An Obsessive Love Story.
It seems like many critics really had a dislike to this film, but I am all about swimming against the tide. This film, while far from perfect, still manages to tell its intricate story well and it is because of the two main stars with their excellent performances that it doesn’t collapse into a heavy-handed melodrama. Sure, there are some plot holes here, but I nonetheless found myself pulled into the story and its dramatic twists and turns. This film is difficult to write about because the plot depends upon the emotional catharsis of certain scenes and to give away the details would make for a dull review. So, grated you have been warned and I will try to do my best without ruining the overall experience.
This film is filled with some amazing cinematography; plenty of eye-popping visuals, tricky camera effects, and the color schematic is bright and determined. The story line is basic, but the director has some tricks up his sleeve, and I believe that it took an experienced man behind the camera to tell this tale. The beginning of the film is totally disorienting and that helps establish the overall tone of the film. We get flashes of the past and other incidents that are in the main character’s memory, but because Gina (Blake Lively) is blind, it isn’t clear that she is lost in a void. Her husband James (Jason Clarke) loves her; he does almost everything for her and she is clearly dependent upon his attention.We open up with a steamy sex scene with plenty of heavy breathing and tossing and turning. The couple live in an expensive high rise in Bangkok, where James works in insurance and Gina teaches guitar. The couple are trying to become parents, but they aren’t having much luck. So instead of passionate lovemaking, the task becomes a chore that must be done until the final results yield reward. Gina is blind as the result of a car accident that also killed both her parents. So, we have tragedy and its subsequent results. Gina’s blindness is not complete; her vision is distorted, and we get glimpses of what she can see. I at first thought that this would be another crazed blind patient gets an operation and starts seeing dead people film, but thankfully Director Forster had something else in mind.
Essentially this film is about intimacy and power. At the center of any relationship is a feeling of trust, but when one person is partially blind, then that feeling of trust becomes even more focused. The relationship between Gina and James is magnified by the director and under his camera’s scrutiny we see things differently than usual. James is a man that feels fulfilled; he is the bread winner, he has selected the place where they live, and most importantly, he is the caretaker. Gina is a beautiful woman but since she is burdened by the past, she has lost her sight and consequently her sense of self. It isn’t until she has an operation to restore sight to her one eye, that she regains her vision and consequently, she rediscovers her own secret power. Throughout the film the couple’s sexuality is magnified and since they are trying to become parents, things become fraught with issues regarding power and control. There is a scene where the couple are on a train and Gina has tied James to the bed. Perhaps they are trying to spice up their sex life a bit with some experimentation, but James becomes angry because of his helplessness and Gina ends up standing with her back to the wall, dissatisfied as well.
Throughout the film we see instances where James leaves Gina alone and helpless while he stands back and watches. Later after the operation where Gina regains partial vision, we see James purposely sabotaging Gina’s eyedrops because he misses being in control. As Gina’s vision improves, we see her becoming a stronger person, making decisions and being adventurous. She rejects James selection of a living space and selects a different place. The couple go to Barcelona to visit Gina’s sister, Carla (Ahna O’ Reilly) and while there, Gina explores her sexuality when she accompanies her sister and her husband Ramon (Miquel Fernández) to visit a live sex show. The difference between Gina and her sister is magnified in terms of sexuality is demonstrated in a scene where Carla and Ramon have loud passionate sex while Gina and James lie in bed silent and separate. As the film progresses, we see a chasm begin to erupt between the couple and they are both left struggling with their new roles.
Cinematographer Matthias Koenigswieser does an incredible job visually as he bombards the viewer with some amazing scenes mirroring what it is like to transform from a blurry world to one filled with color and fury. The soundtrack by Marc Streitenfeld is particularly good at highlighting the action on screen without becoming too distracting. This was a definitely an interesting cinematic experience and is not for everyone, but those who are seeking something a bit more cerebral will be rewarded.
Review by Robert Segedy