Runtime: 90 Minutes
Director: Andy Delaney and Monty Whitebloom
Writer: Jennifer Schuur
Stars: Aidan Turner, Shannon Tarbet, Chloe Sevigny, Matthew Broderick
By Nicole Ackman
“I really don’t know what’s real anymore,” Bess says in “Love is Blind” (2019). Much of this film revolves around the audience figuring out what is real rather than in Bess’s head. Andy Delaney and Monty Whitebloom direct this quirky romantic dramedy about loneliness, grief, and healing. It has a solid cast and is an imaginative film, making it always engaging despite its wacky and sometimes hard-to-follow plot.
“Love is Blind,” written by Jennifer Schuur, is about a girl named Bess (Shannon Tarbet) who cannot see her mother (Chloe Sevigny) and believes that she passed away a decade ago. Through the course of the film, the audience realizes that her mother is very much alive but that her ‘selective blindness’ is Bess’s way of coping with a traumatic event in the past. Bess’s world seems to be crumbling as father (Matthew Broderick) succumbs further to Parkinson’s. Meanwhile, Bess has a complicated relationship with her psychiatrist (Benjamin Walker) who she has feelings for, but who only seems to see her as a test subject. When he meets Russell (Aidan Turner), a demolition man in town dealing with his own loneliness and suicidal thoughts, he decides to set them up as a sort of group therapy experiment despite the fact that Bess cannot see Russell either.
If it feels like the film’s plot is convoluted, that’s because it is. It can be a bit difficult to keep up with all of the side plots, from Bess’s father’s peacock to Bess’s lack of interest in the optometry career she is supposed to be pursuing. It can be a bit meandering at times and the handful of dream-like sequences don’t necessarily help. Magical realism is always tricky and, as an audience member, it can be difficult to accept things like Bess’s fictional ailment of not being able to see some people.
“The film’s strengths lie not in its plot, but rather in the themes, performances, and aesthetic. It’s a charming movie…[it] definitely has that indie film feel to it, down to the fonts used in the opening credits.”
The film takes on a lot from Parkinson’s to suicide to Bess’s condition, which seems like it may have come out of PTSD from bad experiences in her childhood. Russell’s suicidal thoughts aren’t given as much depth as I would have preferred, but there is one scene in particular that is difficult to watch (and potentially triggering). Bess’s therapist, Farmer, is an eccentric man and makes a comment at one point that he is “on the spectrum.” This character could have been handled better. The film also presents a strange version of therapy, as films too often do.
The film’s strengths lie not in its plot, but rather in the themes, performances, and aesthetic. It’s a charming movie, from the small town setting in New York’s Hudson Valley to the narration provided off and on by Aidan Turner’s character. The film definitely has that indie film feel to it, down to the fonts used in the opening credits. It even features classic quirky pretty girl costumes worn by its main character, Bess, like retro floral dresses.
It’s actually a rather pretty film to look at (and not just because of its leading man). Having Bess’s childhood flashbacks in black and white helps the audience keep track of the timeline and there are some interesting shots using mirrors. While the handful of dream-like sequences sprinkled throughout don’t always make perfect sense within the plot, they are always enjoyable to watch. The themes that it explores are worthy as well: grief, isolation, love.
The performances are good across the board, even if certain characters aren’t given enough to do. Chloe Sevigny is often absent as Bess’s mother that she can’t see, but when she’s onscreen, her pain is well conveyed. Matthew Broderick is similarly underutilized, but does a great job at capturing a father who is more worried for his daughter than his own failing health. Benjamin Walker does his best with what he’s given as the therapist and is at least consistent in his eccentricities.
“While the film isn’t without its problems, it’s a promising feature film directorial debut from Delaney and Whitebloom. It has interesting things to say about grief and relationships and good performances, but it fails to sell the audience on the romance.”
Shannon Tarbet presents a girl who is overwhelmed by her father’s poor health and her slipping grasp on reality. As the film goes on, she becomes more and more aware that her mind seems to be working against her as she desperately tries to see the people she can’t. She constantly seeks validation and answers from the men in her life; I wish that this was better transitioned to her finding her own agency at the end of the film.
“Poldark” fans will be happy to see Aidan Turner in another broody role as a man who feels completely disconnected from people. For some, Turner’s presence in this film may be enough to sell it and he is certainly very handsome even when covered in dirt from his demolition job. He plays the lonely, tortured soul well and it’s only due to Turner’s charm and some cinematic flair that his character is kept from seeming completely creepy.
While the film isn’t without its problems, it’s a promising feature film directorial debut from Delaney and Whitebloom. It has interesting things to say about grief and relationships and good performances, but it fails to sell the audience on the romance. “Love is Blind” had a lot of potential, but it unfortunately doesn’t live up to its intriguing concept.
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
TW: suicide, self-harm
Photos courtesy of: Uncork’d Entertainment