In the movies, miracle cures for blindness always come with severe side effects – like being able to see ghosts in The Eye (and sequels and remake) or getting mixed up with serial killer in Blink. This evokes the former with its otherwise-superfluous Thai setting but never quite goes down the full-on genre path, though it does slowly morph from being a study of a marriage in crisis into some sort of Gaslight derivative.
Gina (Blake Lively), a music teacher, lives in Bangkok with her insurance guy husband James (Jason Clarke) and is reconciled to her blindness – sustained in a childhood car accident that orphaned her – until a doctor (played by Danny Huston, which inevitably makes him genially sinister) proposes a radical new technique which can at least give her vision in one eye. However, as she gets used to seeing the world – which director Marc Forster goes to town on visually – she also bristles at the rut she was in as a dependent person, and James gets weird about several things, including her sudden interest in kinkier sex even as they’re failing to conceive a child. It’s the sort of film where no one says or does anything reassuring – a trip to Spain, where the couple honeymooned while she couldn’t see, leads to a botched attempt at recapturing the magic and an encounter with Gina’s sister Carla (Ahna O’Reilly) and her appalling pretentious thug of a husband (Miquel Fernandez) … and a return to Thailand finds Gina’s sight failing again, prompting her to suspect someone (guess who?) is sabotaging her essential eyedrops, but also that other things in her life (her dog, her new house) are being undermined in order to keep her off balance.
To be fair, there isn’t just one suspect – the suspiciously nice guy Gina meets at the swimming pool who is dead keen on jumping her bones qualifies – but it’s true that in roughly 80% of these films, from Gaslight through Midnight Lace and Jagged Edge to any given giallo, the husband is responsible for persecuting the wife. Forster, who scripted with Sean Conway, is a weirdly all-over-the-place director, with credits on critical hits (Monster’s Ball) and commercial tentpoles (Quantum of Solace, World War Z) but who still fits in odd little movies like this which tend to bypass theatrical release (Stay). There’s a sense that this eclecticism has infected his oeuvre – if this settled on being a nuanced, creepy relationship movie (along the lines of Phantom Thread, say) or a hokey, stalkery suspense-horror film (Wait Until Dark, See No Evil) then the excellent lead performances wouldn’t feel quite so adrift.
It’s worth seeing for its strange little quirky moments – a nightclub scene where the sighted husband impulsively stands still and keeps quiet for a moment as his wife is bothered by some folks to the point of hysteria, the ghastly brother-in-law’s sudden appearance smeared with blood (or red paint) in one of his wife’s sexy dresses, a peculiar ambiguous climax at a concert recital where the heroine actualises herself by singing the title song – but it’s not only the heroine’s subjective viewpoint that keeps going in and out of focus.