In Your Eyes (2014) / Romance-Fantasy
MPAA Rated: Not rated, but probably PG-13 for sensuality and language
Running Time: 105 min.
Cast: Zoe Kazan, Michael Stahl-David, Mark Feuerstein, Nikki Reed, Jennifer Grey, Steve Harris
Director: Brin Hill
Screenplay: Joss Whedon
Review published July 21, 2014
I think that a sizable percentage of those who are looking to watch In Your Eyes will do so primarily because they are Joss Whedon (Much Ado About Nothing, The Avengers) fans who will consume everything he writes, directs or produces. Knowing this, I also know that I'll get my share of dissenters of my opinion when I give one of his projects a negative review, which I will also do here, in this film in which he is credited as the sole screenwriter and executive producer.
Truth be told, the screenplay for this flick had originally been written by Whedon in 1992, the same year that brought the world the original movie, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He has tinkered with it over the years, but I'm guessing that if he were to write this today from whole cloth, it would likely be far different, and far better, than the concept he came up with when he had been in his late 20s with little experience.
Zoe Kazan (Happythankyoumoreplease, It's Complicated) stars as Rebecca, a New Hampshire woman who once shared a psychic connection with a boy named Dylan (Stahl-David, Cloverfield) during a sledding accident as a kid. It's now 20 years later, and the link has been a distant memory for both of them. Becky is now the wife of a successful doctor (Feuerstein, In Her Shoes), while Dylan is now an ex-con living in a New Mexico trailer home, and their worlds collide yet again when their psychic link re-connects, allowing each person the ability to not only see with their own eyes, but through the other's eyes as well. And not just see, but their other senses can get into synch as well. Only now they can actually talk to one another, though they do actually have to verbalize their conversations aloud, which has been getting funny or alarmed looks from those around them.
Sitcom-type hijinks ensue. Rebecca guides Dylan in asking a local beauty to his house for a home-cooked meal. He helps her with difficulties relate to someone when her busy husband is inattentive. The two soon form a connection of intimacy -- not physical, but emotional -- that makes them very confused about what they want to do in life. Somehow, they decide that keeping the psychic hot-link is where it's at -- they never call each other directly or Skype. To see each other, they tell each other to go look in the mirror. This is supposed to make it seem extra romantic.
In Your Eyes feels very much like a metaphor for people who meet online and carry on a flirtatious, long-distance friendship on the side, not telling their significant others or friends about the relationship. The gimmick here is that they can talk using their mouths and minds instead of SMS, or FaceTime, or Kik or some other quick-chat app. And why not go to that length since the film plays like a glossy Sparks-esque romance much of the time, with the kind of doe-eyed whimsy rare to find outside of pop-Asian cinema.
The actors in the piece are fine, though their characterizations are broad and not really deep enough to truly empathize with during the film's occasional dips into sentimentality. Unfortunately, those dips eventually go into a chasm when, in the final half hour, the storyline loses its way into overreaching drama which involves such things as mental wards, grand escapes, and full-on running onto moving trains. What had initially been built up as a sweet-but-bland and none-too-serious metaphysical romantic comedy gets crushed when the slightest weight of importance is pressed upon it.
Perhaps in the early 1990s, when cell phones and the internet were not quite viable, and movies like Her were a concept too distant in the future to see coming, such a film could be deemed quaint, cute and relevant. However, for today's audiences, in a world of social media and a dozen ways to connect with anyone, anywhere, we're too used to seeing the world through each other's eyes to be moved by the fantastical one in In Your Eyes.
©2014 Vince Leo