By MICHAEL GINGOLD
Starring Skyler Davenport, Jessica Parker Kennedy and Pascal Langdale
Directed by Randall Okita
Written by Adam Yorke and Tommy Gushue
SEE FOR ME features a blind heroine portrayed by a visually impaired actor, but it doesn’t sentimentalize its protagonist or her condition. Indeed, some of the best parts of the film confound our expectations about how her role is going to play out under the extreme duress she goes through.
Skyler Davenport, making a strong and confident impression in their first feature lead after years of anime/video-game voice work, plays Sophie Scott, whose award-winning days as a competitive skier were cut short by the loss of her vision. The opening minutes of SEE FOR ME succinctly introduce us to the way she now lives her life, while dropping a subtle hint or two about revelations to come. Leaving the house she shares with her endlessly fussing mother (Natalie Brown), Sophie cabs it to a huge, impressive house in the middle of snowy mountains, where she’s taking a job cat-sitting for wealthy Debra (Laura Vandervoort). There’s a nice, understated tension to the way their introductory scenes play out, where you can’t quite tell if Debra is distracted to the point where she doesn’t notice Sophie’s blindness, or is intentionally trying not to notice it.
In any case, Sophie is left alone to acclimate herself to her expansive new environment and settle in for the night–but not for long. A trio of thugs–Ernie (Pascal Langdale), Dave (Joe Pingue) and Otis (George Tchortov)–turn up after darkness falls, seeking to rob the place and not expecting anyone to be there to get in the way. Once they and Sophie become aware of each other’s presences, a cat-and-mouse survival game ensues in which Sophie receives help from Kelly (Jessica Parker Kennedy), whom Sophie contacts via See For Me, an app (which she downloads and activates enviously fast) allowing Kelly to be her eyes via her phone, advising and guiding Sophie as she both flees and fights back.
So many isolation thrillers are dependent on “There’s no service up here!” that having cell-phone communication as a key plot device already makes SEE FOR ME subversive within its subgenre. And there are more surprises in Adam Yorke and Tommy Gushue’s script, particularly having to do with Sophie herself. She has unexpected layers and motivations that aren’t all pure-hearted, which make her more interesting than your typical terrorized heroine finding the strength to defend herself. At one point, she tries a very different tactic than expected to save her skin, which immediately has you wondering where the story will go next. While this particular tack isn’t developed as far as it might have been, Yorke and Gushue plausibly negotiate the further story turns, and that, combined with Davenport’s always empathetic performance, keeps us rooting for Sophie throughout.
Director Randall Okita maintains a tense pace and, with cinematographers Jackson Parrell and Jordan Oram, makes eerie use of flashlights and phone lights as sole sources of illumination. He also makes the most of the central house location and its many windows, with wide shots (both inside and outside) letting us see where both Sophie and her pursuers are, then getting in tighter to keep us in suspense as to when they’ll collide. It was also a fun choice to have former soldier Kelly (nicely played by Kennedy) be a fan of first-person shooter games, and then have her guide Sophie through something resembling the real thing as the action at the house heats up. At many points during SEE FOR ME, in fact, it’s clear that a lot of thought went into bringing a little something extra to a well-traveled basic premise, and the results mark all involved as up-and-coming talents to watch.
See our interview with Davenport here.