Low budget thrillers are a staple of the industry. Even after poor ticket sales they usually, recover the money spent on them quite easily and hence aren’t given much care or attention to. Sightless, however, rises above its peers even with its faults. Now streaming on Netflix.
Sightless follows a young and accomplished violinist, Ellen Ashland (Madelaine Petsch), who permanently loses her eyesight after a vicious attack. Her ex-husband has been imprisoned for scamming their friends and family, who mostly cut her off after his actions.
Left alone and unattended, she reaches out to her estranged brother, Easton, who lives in Japan, to help her out. He gets her a new apartment, where her absconding assailant would not find her and places her in the care of a nurse, Clayton (Alexander Koch), to help her transition to her new world.
Ellen tries to adjust to her new normal but gets increasingly more paranoid. Wary of her new neighbours, Lana (December Ensminger) and her abusive husband, Russo (Lee Jones), and everyone around her, Ellen is unable to convince anyone that her assailant is out to get her once again.
Madeline Petsch is primarily known for her highschool bully roles in teen dramas. Sightless might finally help her discard that image and be taken more seriously as an actress as she is one of the best parts of the film. Petsch conveys Ellen’s paranoia and hopelessness effortlessly.
The film heavily relies on the audience placing themselves with the protagonist. Without Petsch’s fantastic performance, the film would have failed miserably.
Alexander Koch plays Clayton the trained medical professional, who has to help Ellen transition into her new life. Koch is not convincing at all. He has absolutely no chemistry with Petsch. Koch’s performance is wooden with not an iota of reality.
The film does not have many supporting characters but their performances were quite forgettable as well.
Where Sightless surpasses its counterparts, is its direction. Sightless is writer-director Cooper Karl’s debut feature-length film and is adapted from his own short film, of the same name.
Karl’s direction is not subtle but works, mostly. The perception versus reality question is established well throughout the film.
Karl’s direction along with Andrew Jeric’s cinematography places the audience in Ellen’s shoes and paradoxically, gives the experience of being blind in a visual format. The audience shares her assumptions about reality and also the gaps in her knowledge.
The third act of the film is well-paced and exciting. Despite the shortcomings in the film, Sightless ends on a high.
The starting of the film is rushed and fractured. It seems like it was abruptly cut short to bring the runtime to 90 minutes. The second act of the film feels slow, especially when followed by a rushed first act.
Add to an already slow second act, the atrocious romantic angle between Clayton and Ellen, who have absolutely no chemistry, the audience gets an underwhelming second act.
The twists and the turns are quite Hitchcockian in nature, though not nearly as effective due to the writing and the awful acting.
The ending of the film, though exciting, is over the top and shows no restraint. The dilemma of perception and reality transforms from a smart directorial choice into a gimmick for easy tension building moments.
The film also has the overused dream sequences and unnecessary horror film tropes.
At the end of the day, Sightless is an average thriller with glimmers of some talent beneath the murk.
Karl and Petsch’s potential makes Sightless a fun but forgettable, one-time watch.