SEE FOR ME
2022, Unrated, 92 mins.
Skyler Davenport as Sophie / Jessica Parker Kennedy as Kelly / Laura Vandervoort as Debra / Pascal Langdale as Ernie / George Tchortov as Otis / Joe Pingue as DaveDirected by Randall Okita / Written by Adam Yorke and Tommy Gushue
The doldrums of the January movie release season usually has me in a fairly depressive state, which is why I found the new small scale home invasion thriller SEE FOR ME to be such a wonderful surprise.
made nerve-wracker delves into a sub genre that's been done and done to
relative death over the years, but what makes this one so wholly unique is
its ingenuous take on the underlining material and premise.
The basic tenants of these types of films are simple: A vulnerable
person - left all alone - is forced to defend him/herself against a group
of thieves breaking into their home.
SEE FOR ME shakes that up by making the victim blind and also not
the squeakiest of clean protagonists either.
Home invasion thrillers generate terror when the dweller seems
incapable of fighting back, but when the same dweller has one of her most
vital senses removed it amps up the tension to level 11.
Directed with a
swiftly assured hand by Randall Okita, SEE FOR ME almost works as a
twisted mirror reflection of DON'T BREATHE,
another macabre home invasion thriller in its own right involving a group
of would-be thieves that break into the home of a blind person, albeit a
blind sociopathic military veteran that has the abilities to fend off
these perpetrators. In SEE
FOR ME the "victim" in question is far less capable of fending
for herself. Downhill skier
Sophie Scott (played in a thanklessly good performance by newcomer Skyler
Davenport, who's actually blind in real life, more on that in a bit) was
once a hopeful Olympian, that is until she developed a degenerative eye
disease that tragically caused her to lose her vision and crushed her
athletic dreams. Even though
she has caring and nurturing friends that try to convince her to train and
participate for the Paralympic Games, she steadfastly refuses out of
pride. Realizing that she
still needs to make some form of ends meet, Sophie takes odd house-sitting
jobs, with her latest being one for a wealthy client in Debra (Laura
Vandervoort), who wants her to look after her up-state New York home and
cat while she's away on vacation.
Now, I know what
you must be thinking: How does a blind person look after a pet and a
strange dwelling all by herself? SEE
FOR ME gets quite clever in showing how equally clever Sophie is at using
technology to guide her through just about every obstacle that's thrown in
her way. Using her voice
activated smart phone for everyday tasks makes her life simpler,
especially when it comes time to Face Timing friends so they can help
guide her through the complex maze of hallways, rooms, and stairs that
make up this home (also, she utilizes a truly nifty tracking collar
attached to Debra's cat that allows her to monitor its movements on her
phone as well). Things get
dicey, though, when she accidentally gets locked out of the home and is
stranded in the cold. At the
advice of her mother, Sophie downloads a new app called "See For
Me" that places her in video conference mode with a seeing-abled
agent to help her through anything. The
first agent she gets is Kelly (Jessica Parker Kennedy), a former army
veteran, and with some ingenuity on her part Sophie is able to get back
her, that's not the end of her troubles that evening.
Three men end up breaking into the house, which prompts her to
calling 911 to report it while in hiding.
Realizing that she will not get immediate help from the
authorities, Sophie reaches back out to Kelly via the app to help her
access the dangers and make it out of the home alive.
It becomes clear that these invaders have smashed their way in to
get the millions of dollars that Debra has stashed away in a hidden safe,
which will require time and considerable energy to break into.
Sophie is caught by the men, and when they realize that she has
called for help they reach out to their boss, who believes that a blind
girl will hardly be able to rat them out to anyone for identification
purposes. Complicating things
for everyone is the fact that the 911 operator is sending an officer down
to check in with Sophie, which triggers panic in the thieves.
Unexpectedly, Sophie offers a surprise counter proposal to them.
As mentioned, SEE
FOR ME is not the first home invasion thriller involving a blind person
taking on a group of criminals, but where it sets itself off apart from
DON'T BREATHE is in its many tweaks and twists that it makes to spice up
the premise, which has the positive side effect of subverting audience
expectations for the overarching story trajectory.
This becomes a rare kind of thriller that makes you radically
re-think the basic concepts of victims and their pursuers, not to mention
the different levels of intense jeopardy that this unique victim finds
herself in. It's traumatizing
to defend a home from unknown, dangerous assailants, but it's a whole
other dread inducing ordeal to do so as a blind person.
That's what amps up the Hitchcockian levels of suspense in SEE FOR
ME. The film becomes an
uncommonly scary genre exercise because (a) Sophie - under any normal
circumstances - is in a highly vulnerable state to defend herself against
multiple thugs and (b) she can't simply see herself out of this
nightmarish jam. And SEE FOR ME becomes especially crafty for how it develops
Sophie's impromptu relationship with Kelly, who ends up serving as her
eyes via her smart phone to help her get out of this terrible pickle of a
that SEE FOR ME does atypically well is in how it frames the character of
Sophie throughout. She's not
just presented as a scream queen victim here at all. If anything, she's introduced early in the film as a hard
nosed, tough talking, deeply cynical, and sometimes toxically anti-social
person that has become so bitter by the cruel twist of fate that life has
dealt her that she basically pushes away help when presented.
She's then forced to accept the help of Kelly when her life is on
the line, which in turn forces her to change her tune when it comes to
re-learning to rely on the able bodied.
But then the makers here toss in added moral complexity to the mix
by having Sophie make some quick witted decisions that (without spoiling
anything) calls into question whether or not we can even simply label her
as a victim anymore. This all
creates an even thornier, yet compelling dynamic between her, Kelly, and
the crooks that I frankly was not expecting at all going into the middle
sections of the film. Sophie
is clearly the one on the obvious defensive here, but she's tenacious,
intelligent, and is willing to quickly adapt to any dire challenge thrown
at her, even if it means eroding our identification of her as a heroine
that we should be rooting for. In
many respects, SEE FOR ME is a hell of a lot smarter than a handful of
recent thrillers that I've seen, and I like it when films deceptively
throw curveballs at me.
Okita directs the
film with maximum economy and swiftness.
At around 90 minutes, most of the unnecessary fat has been trimmed
out here and the story momentum is kept at a generous pace throughout.
He also knows how to use the geography of the home itself (and
Sophie's unfamiliarity with it) to drum of the anxiety inducing paranoia.
On a level of pure visceral atmosphere, SEE FOR ME is efficient at showing
just how hopelessly isolated Sophie is here from everyone else and safety.
That brings us to Davenport herself, making her film debut, and
what a debut it is. I really
could have seen the temptation for filmmakers to hire a better know and
sighted actress for this role, so kudos to Okita and company for sticking
to their creative guns and using a visual impaired actor to play a
visually impaired character. And
Davenport has a really tricky job of here of walking the slippery slope of
making her character completely
dislikeable (she's not a likeable person through much of this film), but
she also has to relay that, yes, this is a highly defenseless woman being
placed in a panic-inducing situation that deserves our empathy. Davenport's performance is layered and complex: She's
supposed to be our emotional entry point into this film, but she's deeply
flawed and troubled all the same. I
appreciated how SEE FOR ME doesn't hold our hands with this character.