Release Date: September 2020 (Dances with Films Festival)|Director: Cooper Karl |Genre: Psychological Thriller|Where Can I watch: Netflix (as of January 2021)
Madelaine Petsch plays Ellen Ashland, a former violinist who is suddenly left blind after a vicious attack. Alienated from her brother, her ex-husband, and her close friend, she struggles to adjust to her new reality. What’s more, something’s not quite right in her new apartment complex. Ellen quickly learns that no one is who they appear to be. But can she trust her own suspicions or is everything merely a trick of the mind?
Sightless is definitely a slow-burn thriller; though the ending takes off at a gallop, the first 3/4 of the movie proceed at a slow, leisurely pace. Madelaine Petsch and Alexander Koch give great performances, as do the supporting cast, but the cinematography is what really elevated this movie in my esteem. The shots heightened the tension and distorted the viewer’s sense of what was really happening.
“Perception is my only reality.”-Ellen Ashland
One clear theme of this movie is that of perception vs. reality, and I really enjoyed the creative camera work and evasive shots that went into bringing this theme to life. As Ellen grows suspicious of what her senses are telling her, the viewer quickly learns that they too should be wary of the scenes they are initially presented with. What first appears on the screen is Ellen’s perception of reality. As she gains new information, the scenes shift to reflect what she now knows to be “true.” For example, when her caregiver, Clayton (played by Alexander Koch) gives her a pet budgie, the bird on screen is green. Ellen asks, “What colour [is it]?” Clayton responds with, “What [colour] do you want it to be?” suggesting that her imagination—her perception of what is true—take precedence over reality. When she asks the question again, Clayton states that the bird is “baby blue” and the image of the budgie glitches momentarily. A second later and the bird on the screen is blue. This same technique is used when Ellen is confronted by someone she doesn’t know: the viewer sees who Ellen thinks is in front of her, and then the image shifts as she gets more sensory data. This depiction of Ellen as an unreliable narrator feels right at home in a psychological thriller—it heightens the tension while also allowing the viewer to take a peek inside the mind of our protagonist.
I’ve read a few other reviews of this film, and most of them complain about the ending. Yes, the ending is slightly predictable, but somehow I wasn’t disappointed. All in all, Sightless made for an enjoyable way to spend the evening, and I would definitely consider going back for a second viewing.