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AT FIRST SIGHT

SYNOPSIS:
When New York City architect Amy Benic (Mira Sorvino) falls in love with blind, charismatic masseur Virgil Adamson (Val Kilmer), she convinces him to undergo experimental surgery that will allow him to see the world as she sees it -- in all its chaotic, colourful glory. In this new, exciting time together, they soon learn that all gifts come with a price and vision is comprised of a multitude of senses.

"I can’t help feeling that this film ruins a terrific story, by the heavy use of Hollywood’s most reusable resource: schmaltz. The problem is not that the script twists and convulses the factual story in Dr Sacks’ book but that it fails to fill it with real characters. It’s a glossy version of a rigorous story, given the glamourisation treatment – which is to real drama what ‘colorization’ is to black and white.

The script drains the factual story of resonances so that the characters are simplified: the blind man is angry because his father left when he was a kid; the sister has been supporting her blind brother, robbed of a life of her own; the young woman who falls for the blind masseur is divorced from a jerk… these are simplistic backdrops for characters who go through major emotional turmoil.

This homogenisation is perhaps the most frequent failing of Hollywood-produced dramas – it suggests a kind of immaturity which has to feign the human condition as if we couldn’t handle the real thing without protective goggles."
Andrew L. Urban

"There are many fascinating concepts canvassed in this extraordinary story, yet it falls short of being a great film, due to a dose of sentimentality, and a script that is a little long. Yet At First Sight is appealing in many ways as it takes us on a somewhat philosophical journey, where we can explore our perceptions and what we often take for granted. I wish more emphasis had been placed on this aspect of the story, rather than the stumbling romance, which never really satisfies.

Val Kilmer creates a poignant, memorable character into whose world we glimpse. Mira Sorvino has been struggling to find a suitable role since her Oscar winning performance in Mighty Aphrodite. This is certainly an improvement on her roles in Mimic and Replacement Killers, but somehow we do not totally connect. Kelly McGuiness is terrific as the caring sister – her performance is insightful, contained and very real. For the senses, there's a delectable soundtrack, picturesque settings and beautiful lensing by our own John Seale.

Spiked with insight and occasional touches of humour, At First Sight invites us to take a frank look at the human condition, when life is not always black and white, nor do we always see without looking."
Louise Keller

"The original idea for At First Sight was a story (based on true life events) written by Oliver Sacks, the psychiatrist and author. The film turns out to be essentially Awakenings (another Sacks' story) with a love story mixed in; resulting in a lengthy (2 hours plus) and ultimately uninvolving film.

Despite its intriguing premise - a blind person given a chance at sight - the clumsy script lets down what could have been a fine film. Its main problem is failing to credit the audience's intelligence, meaning it lays out everything laboriously lest you should miss it. Also, its treatment of Virgil is less than successful.

Notwithstanding Kilmer's best efforts, the character comes across as a self-centred jerk. As any film student will tell you, this is not a good thing for a romantic lead. Mira Sorvino's performance is definitely the highlight of the film. She brings a vulnerability and charm to Amy that makes her a much more rounded and credible character. Nathan Lane also makes an appearance as a therapist loosely modelled on Sacks himself, and manages to effortlessly steal his scenes.

The film is at its best when dealing with the medical aspects of Virgil's condition, and many of these scenes are strong. Unfortunately, the love story fails to engage, and there's a distinct lack of spark between the leads. As a result, At First Sight ends up being an inoffensive but rather bland experience."
David Edwards

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 1
Mixed: 2

See Andrew L. Urban's interview with author
OLIVER SACKS

AT FIRST SIGHT (M)
(US)

CAST: Val Kilmer, Mira Sorvino, Kelly McGillis, Nathan Lane, Steven Weber, Bruce Davison, Ken Howard

DIRECTOR: Irwin Winkler

PRODUCER: Irwin Winkler & Rob Cowan

SCRIPT: Steve Levitt, Irwin Winkler & Rob Cowan

CINEMATOGRAPHER: John Seale ACS, ASC

EDITOR: Julie Monroe

MUSIC: Mark Isham

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Jane Musky

RUNNING TIME: 129 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: UIP

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 22, 1999

VIDEO RELEASE: November 23, 1999

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Warner Home Video







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