The Unseen is one of those peculiar films. I watched this psychological thriller without any idea as to what is was and allowed myself to be carried along its twists and turns as the story was played out. From the beginning I was given an emotional and thrilling ride and was left satisfied with what I had seen. But once we had reached the end I started to get ahead of the story and I couldn’t help but feel like I had seen all of this before. Not long after it had finished, The Unseen sadly left me wishing for more.
Gemma, a radio and audiobook voice artist, and husband Will, who’s profession we don’t learn, are as happy as can be – then tragedy hits. Their infant son dies in a tragic accident and the grief starts to tear their life’s apart. Things only get worse when Gemma starts suffering from bouts of temporary blindness and Will is driven to the brink of sanity, hearing his son’s voice in the empty bedroom at night. Seemingly by miracle the kind, but down on his luck Paul invites them to stay at the cottage he has in the Lake District. Unfortunately, what sounds like the best plan for them turns into something far worse.
From the get-go this was a very well-acted film. It stars unheard of actors in Jasmine Hyde, Richard Flood and Simon Cotton. From the first act Hyde and Flood completely sold me as the grieving parents. You don’t just feel sorry for them, you feel sorry with them. There are scenes completely dedicated to an action both do out of grief, and big or small they always hit their mark. This includes Gemma telling some kids to ‘be careful’ when climbing on something in the street. Will’s torture is demonstrated perfectly with a scene that involves a goldfish. The writing does help of course, with some excellent material for the actors to work with – but I feel that these actors completely made the roles their own.
As a story, The Unseen works very well. While the film is probably a little longer than it needed to be – some moments towards the end felt a little redundant to me – it most certainly works as a slow burn, building up the atmosphere as it goes along. There is a scene in the middle of the film where Gemma hears her son’s voice while in the bath and goes blind again. We get this completely through a POV with her and it was genuinely intense. So much so that I felt like I needed a break afterwards. That is a good sign for the film. For the most part, the story is refreshingly different and necessarily upsetting. As the film goes on, though, we start to deviate from the grief drama and the film eventually becomes a pretty generic thriller, but I was still invested with it.
Unsurprisingly, there are twists towards the end. While some of them had me worried about how melodramatic or just plain silly they would be – like a painful twist where a certain character was behind the tragedy, which thankfully never happened – they mostly came off as smart and worked within the tone of the film. At least until you think about them, but the same can be said with most twists.
For the most part, director Gary Sinyor manages to hold the film together very well. It was obviously shot on a tiny budget, most of which was certainly put into the locations and sets. This does lead to moments that you know where done the way they were because they couldn’t afford to shoot it any other way. There is also a pretty dodgy edit here and there – for example, a man is knocked out when he is thrown against a wall, and the edit makes it painfully obvious that the stumble and the impact were shot at different times. But, Sinyor does manage to craft a decent style with the film. The budget does give off a decent sense of realism and the film has a style not dissimilar to an Adrian Lyne film.
But what is it that made me feel hollow about this film. There was a glaring issue with it and it wasn’t the budget or the generic finish. It took me a little bit to work it out. It’s that we never see the child. Not only that, but we only hear him once when he is alive. The film starts with the parents looking for their child, then dread as they look over the now covered family pool – and then it’s over and we get all of their grief afterwards. This is effective for what it is, but we never saw the kid before the accident so there was no connection felt between the audience and the characters. I give credit to the actors and the writing for salvaging what came next – but this was too quickly done to get me even close to invested in the story, both emotionally and as an audience member. The lack of connection this gave me did sadly haunt the film afterwards. I assume that there was a message being made in the absence of the child, or maybe they just couldn’t afford another actor, but either way the decision hurt the film.
Over all, while the film did struggle to invest me emotionally at first, I would say that The Unseen is still worth the watch. It’s actually a film I wouldn’t mind seeing remade with a larger budget. While it’s certainly no award winner, The Unseen’s tight writing, capable directing style and strong cast make it an entertaining and sometimes upsetting film. Handling its subject matter well and never delving into melodrama, The Unseen is definitely a memorable film. Will I watch it again soon, probably not, but I am glad I saw it.
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