At First Sight Review

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A blind masseur regains his sight, but doesn't like what he sees.


Here's a promising notion: what would the world look like to a man blind all his life suddenly given sight? Unfortunately "worthy but dull" is the phrase that comes to mind pondering the output from distinguished producer-turned-director Winkler. And this retelling of a factual story documented by physician author Oliver Sacks proves dispiritingly flat.

Stressed New Yorker Amy (Sorvino) goes to a country spa to chill and meets blind masseur Virgil (Kilmer). His magic hands reduce Amy to jelly (getting paid to let Val rub oil all over you - there's a job), and they fall in love in no time at all. Virgil is sensitive, kind, hunky and happy, but surely he must crave to be "whole" so Amy reads up on optical science and persuades him to have experimental surgery. It's a miraculous success. Or is it?

The strongest section of the film is its attempt to convey what sight is like for one who has never seen before. The answer, approximated by special effects camerawork, is that its weird, scary and an incomprehensible blur because untrained optical impulses leave Virgil helpless as a baby having to re-learn the world. Enter Nathan Lane in the Robin Williams role, the cuddly wisecracking "visual therapist" whose ideas about reaching out and exploring includes a trip to a strip club.

This brings up a good theme, the assumptions of "normal" people about so-called "disabilities", and raises points about perception: what is art and what do sighted people choose not to see? Alas, this is more about the relationship between Virgil and Amy, and their meeting with dependency issues is played with a plodding earnestness that cries out for a bit of charm and magic, while the more intriguing deeper bond - between Virgil and his protective, anxious sister (McGillis) is plumbed less than satisfactorily.

The most positive thing that can said about this medical-psychological romance is that it does encourage looking at blindness in a different light.