The subject of Marc Forster’s “All I See Is You” is blindness, and you might have some trouble with your own eyes while watching it: you could just find that they have an irresistible urge to close. One can appreciate the unusual use of the medium Forster is attempting here, but in the end the film is a failed experiment, a dull tale of a marriage driven on the rocks by a medical miracle that is not enlivened by some visual tricks.
As the film opens, Gina (Blake Lively) is living with her husband James (Jason Clarke) in a Bangkok apartment. Blinded as a result of a childhood car accident in which her parents were killed, she depends on James for everything, and he is as solicitous as can be.
As a result of a cutting-edge corneal transplant conducted by an imperious doctor (Danny Huston), Gina recovers sight in her right eye, and her life changes. She is enthralled by visions of a colorful world, adopts a dog, and is finally able to see Daniel (Wes Chatham), the handsome fellow she’s gotten to know at the swimming pool, and the little neighbor girl (Kaitlin Orem) whom she’s teaching guitar (and co-writing a song for them to perform at an upcoming talent show).
Gina’s new-found independence obviously has an impact on her relationship with James. A visit to Spain for a visit with her sister Carol (Ahna O’Reilly) and her free-spirited husband Ramon (Miguel Fernandez) is particularly troublesome, given James’s embarrassed reaction after Ramon introduces them to some Barcelona fleshpots. When they return home, problems arise with Gina’s vision, leading her back to the doctor for fear that the transplant is being rejected. Investigation suggests, however, that something has gone amiss with the eye drops that are an important part of her post-operative regimen. Could it be that James has been messing with the medication in hopes of returning to a world where he could dominate things?
This melodramatic turn hearkens back to old women’s pictures of the thirties and forties, not to mention Ross Hunter’s later resuscitation of them. But Forster tries to obscure the formulaic nature of the scenario he’s concocted with Sean Conway by conniving with cinematographer Matthias Koenigswieser to employ a variety of camera tricks—blurriness, splotches of color, hallucinatory images, sequences designed to suggest the tactile impressions that a blind person might have of external stimuli (like water in a pool or a shower)—to take the viewer beyond the mechanics of the plot to a visceral identification with Gina’s condition.
The effort fails to function as intended, however, because those interruptions are just that—bits of technique far too familiar from experimental shorts (indeed, less innovative than many you can find there). Rather than being impressed (or merely diverted) by them, the viewer is likely to find them not only disruptive but tedious.
Lively, who made something of a splash in the shark-based thriller “The Shallows,” gives a performance that wouldn’t be out of place in a Lifetime Network movie, and Clarke, looking ever more like a young Colm Meaney, conveys a generally untrustworthy quality but not much more. Huston is his usual haughty self and O’Reilly okay, but Fernandez is so over-the-top as the brother-in-law that he might be brought up on charges of Hispanic stereotyping.
At the end of “All I See Is You,” we get to hear the song that Gina and her student have been preparing for weeks, performed against a montage of dramatic climaxes. It’s an insipid tune, a perfect ending to an ambitious but pretty insipid movie.