See For Me: Review
This thriller follows Sophie (Skyler Davenport), a former top skiing prospect rendered blind by a rare genetic disorder who now housesits in order to make money. Sophie’s resentment of both her blindness and the loss of her skiing career has led her to be short and distant with those around her as she strives to prove she is independent. She even steals from some of the places she housesits as people don’t suspect a blind person of being a criminal. This is a perception she mocks and exploits. While at her latest house sitting gig at a remote home, three men; Otis, Ernie, and Dave, (George Tchortov, Pascal Langdale, and Joe Pingue respectively) break into the house in order to steal something hidden within. The trio is working on behalf of their mysterious employer Rico (Kim Coates). The remainder of the film follows Sophie as she tries to navigate the tense situation in part with the help of Kelly (Jessica Parker Kennedy). Kelly works with a service called See for Me, an app that connects blind people with seeing individuals via video chat in order to help them “see.”
Director Randall Okita along with writers Adam Yorke and Tommy Gushue present audiences with a unique twist on a known narrative format. While there have been countless home invasion stories, even some that also center on blind characters, this film moves beyond just making blindness a new wrinkle or gimmick for the film. Sophie’s blindness not only adds to the threat of being in an unfamiliar environment with dangerous people, but is at the center of her character growth throughout the film. Meaning, as much as the film is a thriller, it is also about how Sophie copes with her disability, and how those she interacts with treat her because of it. This character exploration adds a layer of depth to the thriller tropes that unfold.
To be clear this is not to say that the film does not succeed in engrossing the audience as a thriller. In a film where a lot of tension rests in wondering how Sophie is going to evade the antagonists in such a confined area, understanding the geography of the house is important. Okita, Yorke, and Gushue handle the task of delivering the exposition of the house’s layout by imbuing the scene with character development. Shortly after Sophie arrives at the house, she video chats with her friend Cam (Keaton Kaplan). During their call, Cam helps guide Sophie through the house, familiarizing her, and by extension the audience with it so we understand where characters are in relation to each other once the thriller aspects come into play and escalate as Kelly begins guiding Sophie. During this scene, we also learn that Cam himself is a skier and has helped Sophie sell some of the items she has stolen from houses. However, he now hopes to help her turn a new leaf and get back into skiing via the paralympics, something Sophie is resistant to do.
A myriad of other technical aspects help ensure the film is arresting throughout. The cinematography by Jackson Parrell and Jordan Oram puts the audience right in the middle of the action with the characters, frequently tracking with them as they move through the house, or being tight on their faces during moments of high stress. This is particularly true of scenes from Sophie’s perspective. Speaking of which, the cinematography also does a great job of putting the viewer in Sophie’s shoes as a blind person. For instance, when she is listening for footsteps to understand where people are, the camera will frequently cut to a foot hitting the ground or hands opening doors.
The editing by James Vandewater is particularly impressive when one considers the multiple perspectives he is cutting between during certain scenes; Sophie’s perspective, the perspective of the antagonists, what Kelly is seeing through Sophie’s phone, and Kelly’s reactions to events. Not only does Vandewater do a great job of editing all of these facets together into coherent scenes, but ones that maintain and escalate tension. Adding to this feeling of tension, the score by Menalon which predominantly features synth beats, is very effective at providing a kinetic energy to the film. This creates an intensity and sense of dread associated with thriller films.
While the technical aspects help set the tone and atmosphere for the film, the emotional nature of the characters and performers is part of what separates this film from some of its peers. At the center of the film is Skyler Davenport as Sophie. Davenport makes their live-action feature film debut and imbues Sophie with a great deal of sophistication. Davenport does not portray Sophie as a flawless character nor helpless victim. Instead, Davenport plays someone trying to find their way in life and coping with frustration and anger while still trying to maintain self sufficient. These are complex emotions and experiences and Davenport captures them well. Jessica Parker Kennedy is another strongpoint of the film as Kelly, playing a character that is both sympathetic and supportive of Sophie, but also someone who is willing to stand their ground and push her in order to get her out of this dangerous situation and is a complex character in her own right. The pair have great chemistry and watching their bond form and evolve over the course of the film is one of the highlights. Keaton Kaplan and Natalie Brown are also strong in supporting roles as Cam and Sophie’s Mom respectively. These are two characters who have a history with Sophie prior to her blindness and can see that she is hurting because of it. However, both of them are unsure how best to help her.
While the film has many strong attributes that isn’t to say that there aren’t some flaws as well. Mainly that while the film is well-made and effective as a thriller, few of the events of the plot are particularly surprising. As noted above, while the majority of the film does a good job of escalating tension and keeping the audience engaged, the third act drags slightly which may slightly pull viewers out of the experience.
See For Me is a film that does not break any new ground when it comes to the plot developments and touchstones of the home invasion thriller and loses some momentum during the final third of its runtime. However, strong direction, dynamic camerawork, and moving performances surrounding nuanced characters make this film worth seeking out.
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