The thriller-ish premise of “All I See Is You” sounds familiar enough: A woman, blind since a childhood accident that killed her parents, undergoes surgery to restore sight in one eye, only to discover that her seemingly devoted husband is — well, what exactly? A prude? A control freak? Someone who doesn’t like dogs?
In this bait-and-switch of a movie, marketed like a modern “Gaslight” but in truth a dim-bulb marital melodrama, the chills — let alone the shocks — are nonexistent. And the secrets that are revealed, to the extent that a viewer is able to make out what they are, remain murky, even to the end of the movie.
Blake Lively plays Gina, who, as the film opens, is living with her adoring, insurance-executive husband James (Jason Clarke) in what an on-screen title informs us is Bangkok. We are again reminded of the unlikely setting — given the scarcity of actual Thai people seen — when Gina is shown eating carryout from Bangkok Kitchen. Never mind that this sounds more like the name of a restaurant in Cleveland than in Thailand.
Director Marc Forster (“World War Z”) juices up the mysterious atmosphere in his story (written with Sean Conway) from the get-go, shooting with a blurry, impressionist evocation of blindness that you might call impair-o-vision. Sudden, loud noises intrude on the inchoate swirl of light and shapes, meant to suggest Gina’s enhanced sense of hearing but actually evoking a cheesy horror film. The movie has barely begun, and already it feels like we’re supposed to be afraid of something. Yet it isn’t clear what — or whom.
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Once Gina regains her sight, her relationship with James almost immediately starts to deteriorate. She’s an animal lover, he isn’t, and he complains about the dog she has adopted without his permission. Permission? Uh-oh.
James also disapproves when Gina begins dressing more provocatively, dyeing her straw-colored hair light blond and, during a visit to Barcelona to see her sister (Ahna O’Reilly), watching a peep show featuring a couple copulating in animal masks. Although Gina and James’s sex life seemed fine before, it’s obvious that something is off now. In one scene, James panics when Gina ties him up, blindfolds him and mounts him in, one assumes, an effort to turn the tables.
Clearly, there was something unhealthy about their relationship all along: a power imbalance that has uncomfortably shifted now that Gina has gained more independence. At the same time, some of her new behavior is demonstrably odd. The trip to Spain, for instance, includes a morbid pilgrimage to the spot where Gina’s parents died. She also bathes with her nephew (Xavi Sánchez) and places a dead bird in the fridge after it flies into a pane of glass.
Throughout all of these head-scratching red herrings, Forster’s Hitchcockian camera keeps drawing our attention to the eyedrops that Gina’s doctor (Danny Huston) has prescribed to reduce inflammation but which seem to have the opposite effect, causing a loss of visual acuity. At one point, there’s a mysterious break-in at James and Gina’s apartment, and the couple’s dog goes missing. Gina, who seems to be drifting further and further away from her husband — to the point of infidelity — is going blind again. Whether it’s because of tainted drops — and who is doing the tainting and why — is an enigma, albeit not much of one.
“All I See is You” is a drama of sexual compulsion and control masquerading as a mystery. Despite a modicum of visual style and competent performances, it is unable to keep us guessing — or, more important, to make us care — long enough to work up true suspense.
Does James want Gina to go blind so he can feel needed again? Or does Gina, having experienced a world that is simultaneously more — and less — than the one she dreamed of, decide that she was better off in the dark? These are all good questions. But they are not answered, let alone asked, in “All I See Is You.” When Gina tells James that the world in front of her is “not how I imagined,” you may find yourself sharing that same sense of letdown.
All I See Is You
Rated: R for strong sexual content/nudity, language. Starring: Blake Lively, Jason Clarke, Ahna O’Reilly. Director: Marc Foster. Running time: 110 minutes. Theater: Edwards 21.