Donny Hadfield-Smith 2/21/2021 10:01am ET
As we finally come to terms with the tensions of being confined within the same four walls of our homes, there comes a movie that elevates these horrors and brings them to the forefront.
After being assaulted and sprayed in the face with an unknown substance, Ellen (Riverdale’s Madelaine Petsch) wakes in a hospital, only to discover the experience has left her blinded. Her brother makes arrangements to move her into a new apartment and hires an assistant (Black Bear’s Alexander Koch) to help her adjust to her new normal. The more comfortable she becomes, though, the more she starts to pick up on things that leave her soaked in an uneasiness. Ellen begins noticing suspicious patterns in the sounds outside of her window, her neighbor is holding onto sinister secrets about her marriage, and she starts to fear that her assailant is back to finish the job.
The suspects and motives are plentiful – an ex-husband whose shady business deals left the couple with many enemies, a former best friend who won’t return any of Ellen’s calls, a brother out of the country who is impossible to contact. With none of these backstories and theories paying off, the time spent on these red herrings could have been used on something to move the plot forward in the already limited 90-minute runtime.
Thrillers about women who are lacking one of the five senses have become so plentiful; it’s practically a genre in itself, from the 1967 Audrey Hepburn film Wait Until Dark to Blake Lively’s All I See Is You and Kate Siegel’s Hush, both in 2016. It’s not surprising that so much of what is found in this movie has been seen before. Each twist and scare has been pulled, sometimes directly, from another movie of its kind, but yet it still kind of works.
So many times with thrillers, the audience enters the viewing experience trying to get one step ahead of the film as they grasp at clues to figure out potential twists before they’re revealed. While parts of this movie are more predictable than others and are certainly easy to guess, the cinematic choices by Karl manage to still keep viewers on the edge of their seats. We are seeing the film through Ellen’s lens, so it’s not until she discovers truths about her surroundings that we learn these truths, as well. For instance, when she is told that her pet bird (that she had perceived to be green) is actually blue, the color of the bird changes for the viewers, as well. Likewise, there are times when we are watching Ellen alone in her apartment, and we don’t learn that perhaps the apartment isn’t as empty as we thought until she does.
The cast is limited, with Petsch getting most of the screen time. There’s a sharpness that she brings to a lot of her roles that usually overpowers her vulnerable moments. It works in this, however; with these gentle moments holding a perfect amount of bite that accentuates the bitterness and frustration Ellen is feeling.
While so much of this movie is regurgitated from others in its genre, Sightless still manages to be a movie that you shouldn’t miss. The build-up is quick, and you’ll find yourself asking “What is going on?” repeatedly until everything falls into place, and you’re finally left seeing the truth.
Directed by Cooper Karl, Sightless can be streamed on Netflix.
Donny Hadfield-Smith is a pop culture junkie whose first novel, Bob Smith & the Mystery of the Ghost and Goblin Inn, was published at age 8 by his third grade teacher using a laminating machine and a three-ring binder.It’s still available to read if you have access to his parent’s attic.When not binge watching the same things a 14-year-old girl would have in her queue, Donny can be found co-hosting Know That: A Real Housewives Podcast, or discussing nonsenseon his own podcast, Truly Anything with Donny Hadfield-Smith.