Sometimes we don’t need to have an author’s piece, post ironic, pastiche. Sometimes we just need a fucking good thriller and that’s exactly what see for me gives you. Not that there aren’t directorial flourishes and themes to enjoy, but it’s the thrills that keep you engaged from start to finish.
Sophie was a promising alpine skier, until blindness took away her dreams. Now she is angry, ignoring her mother’s tender care and earning money by keeping rather expensive properties. In her last job, Sophie does her routine thing; call a friend to explain the layout of the house and get a bottle of wine to resell at an inflated price.
However, this time his friend feels he must make a moral choice – one of the recurring themes here – and they break their agreement. Which would be fine, except Sophie locks herself out of the property and has to negotiate the fancy security system to get back inside. This means she has to use a new service her mother found for her, “See For Me”, which connects with someone who can, through their phone, see for her. Together, they reintegrate Sophie and that’s it. Is not it? Well, until 3 men arrive who seem to know the house and where the safe is. What does Sophia do? Hide and get out? Call the cops? Take the things over control ? Well, it’s not the first, that’s for sure.
see for me plays with perception. Sophie is blind and thus becomes the quintessential unreliable narrator; the narrator and audience depend on someone and something else to fill in the gaps. It works so well because we fill in the gaps too, we’re desperate to help, to be Sophie’s eyes, we “see for her” and that brings us into the thriller beautifully.
There are also screens. Filters. Much of the action takes place through screens, with Sophie being led around the house, her “See For Me” pal Kelly watching her from her bedroom through one screen, communicating with another screen. Before being called for the first time by Sophie, she was playing cooperative video games through another screen. Like Polygon does he have; “Seen another way, Kelly is basically a horror movie fan with complete freedom to shout ‘Don’t go that way, he’s waiting for you!’ or ‘Grab that gun and shoot him!'” screen. There are floor-to-ceiling windows in the house, which would be the eyes of the house, but of course, Sophie has no use for those screens. And so we don’t have a central narrator to whom trust, everyone has their vision of what Sophie should see, intruders have a vision of what they expect to see, everyone decides for us and they are often wrong.
Cannily, the film also eschews a moral center of its own. Sophie has already robbed the houses she is supposed to guard. The robbers have a biased sense of morality and among the trio there is an agent who wants to do harm first and work second. However, their mission may not be what you expect, and more information comes later to make us question the validity of their quest. Writers Adam Yorke and Tommy Gushue give us no direction. It remains for us to decide and that has a real audacity. Does it end well for Sophie? If so, it won’t be because of his spotless moral compass. We are constantly asked if it is OK to take people’s things; how you do it and why make a difference? As director Okita says; “Sophie is not a victim” and it’s an interesting discussion and we are constantly faced with having to ask ourselves here.
The action takes place in a setting, the house, large but contained. He may come out once in a while, but it looks dangerous, and because it’s for a short period one evening, it’s all in the dark, with camera phones illuminating the action.
And then there is Sophie’s blindness. The threat to her is visceral, but because she’s relying on someone else to keep her safe and therefore abdicating responsibility, out of necessity, she feels a bit more out of control. This brings up another theme. To be able to. Who has the power here?
Logically, the 3 gunmen should have the power, but from the start, they are put on the defensive when they see that someone is in the house with them. Who has the ultimate power here? The leader of the group in the field, the foreman if you will, constantly defers to someone on the phone, the real boss, much like Sophie defers to her “See For Me” buddy. It takes the power away from the action and adds to the feeling that nobody really has control here, nobody knows what they’re doing, even when Sophie fires a gun, it’s thanks to instructions – the henchmen do not choose her easily, even if she lacks sight. So this movie has a simple idea and a MacGuffin plot that amps up the tension. It never really gives up, but it’s not a thrill ride; it’s not necessary.
As Sophie, Skyler Davenport doesn’t tell us what to think. It’s an honest performance and its moral ambiguity is there for all to see and completely unresolved; she may be in danger, but we don’t know where her moral standpoint is. It’s not a lovable performance and never is his blindness exploited to play with our sympathies. It’s a bold performance. Jessica Parker Kennedy gets along well with Kelly. She too has a moral basis which has been questionable in the past, she is ex-military and at some point begins to tell us what she may have done. Her function here is to be the narrator, to add energy because she can see what is happening; it’s tough when you’re a remote and Kennedy handles it without making it clumsy. And while the 3 intruders aren’t the 3 Stooges, they aren’t the cold-blooded killers we’re used to in the thriller genre; one of them may be happy with the guns, but he has no cunning. They sometimes appear as the 3 constituent parts of the same person, the head, the heart and the muscle.
Director Randall Okita talked about the game of cat and mouse in this movie and what’s clear is that we don’t always know who’s the cat and who’s the mouse. it’s a break from the well-worn underdog for a 90-minute film. Okita doesn’t use too many quick edits here, the shots are slower and reveal danger, letting us decide when we see it and how we react to it.
As a thriller it’s unpretentious yes, but with something quite unique about it. Some people worry that the power struggle here is too evenly matched, but that’s one of the delights of this film. Okita has crafted a film where somewhat expected suspense traps allow him to play with status, perception, and morals. Also shout out to screenwriters Gushue and Yorke who never press the thriller panic button. The storyline waxes and wanes, people make decisions in a heightened situation, and human nature is put to the test, never telling us what we should think.
There are some incredibly suspenseful moments here, with moments of jaw-dropping brilliance in the quiet chases around the house, leaving you wondering what lurks just beyond the camera and camera view of the phone. But this great movie asks so many questions and never just gives you the answers. Like Variety noted; “It’s like Okita, Yorke and Gushue making a list of all the mistakes that similar films have made in the past and set out to avoid them all.” We can talk about 1967 by Audrey Hepburn Wait until nightfall thriller, but maybe thriller with a playful twist is closer. In any case, it’s a bit special.
see for me is exactly what you expect. And quite what you wouldn’t expect either.