Your Eyes" is a British paranormal thriller directed by Nick Willing and
based on the novel "Dr. Sleep" by Madison Smartt Bell. Though unread
by me, judging by the film, "Dr. Sleep" appears to be of the Dan Brown
progeny (or perhaps it's the other way around) where a mysterious and ancient
religious sect supplies the film with its many twists and turns. Not
surprisingly, old church buildings dotting the London cityscape factor heavily
as plot devices. Eventually, of course, a main character connects the church
locations on a map to form an important religious symbol, the purpose of which
seems to be for no apparent reason. Someday a prodigious spoofster will mock
this retread sequence and the map locations will connect to form Mickey Mouse
smoking a cigarette, or maybe Bill Gates eating the earth. I can't wait.
In the meantime, Willing has made a film where
Goran Visnjic (TV's "ER") plays Dr. Michael Strother, a London
hypnotherapist who makes his living curing people of their smoking
habit. One of his patients is a gloomy cop named Janet Losey (Shirley
Henderson), in whom he confides that he has the telepathic ability to
see his patient's thoughts when they are under hypnosis. Janet has been
working a case involving a little girl (Sophie Stuckey) who was once
kidnapped by a ritualistic serial killer but managed to escape.
Unfortunately the girl, who has been rendered catatonic from the trauma,
cannot assist the police in finding the killer.
After Michael proves his telepathic ability, Janet
quickly enlists him to help her extract details about the killer from
the little girl. At first blush, the killer in question appears to be a
sadist of unexplored proportions. He enjoys tattooing his victims with
religious symbols and injecting his blood into their veins, resulting in
unfortunate ends for those with dissimilar blood types. Janet believes
that Michael can persuade the girl to reveal clues about the killer
before he strikes again.
Michael lives up to his billing, sort of, and
through hypnosis gets the girl to utter some gibberish that turns out to
be an ancient language spoken only by the leader of a mysterious
religious sect from the 15th Century. This new revelation leads the pair
to the roots of the ancient cult and to an 18th Century
London architect (ah! a church designer) who was a devout follower. On
the way Michael and Janet seek the assistance of a paranormal
symbologist (Paddy Considine, "In
America") who educates them on some of the finer points of the
cult and how it could be linked to the motives of the killer.
Those of you who are still with me should be
impressively confused by now, as was I. All the nonsense presented about
15th Century cult leaders, 18th Century architects, and how they may or
may not affect the killer's motives and a young girl's speech
impediment, is less than stimulating to say the least. The movie
presents little in the form of explanation to sustain its fictional
narrative besides a few one-liners from the main characters that
Band-Aids gaping holes in the story. In short, the historical fiction
that the script leans on to support the plausibility of the
story is never plausible itself, and eventually the film begins spinning
its tires in mud of its own making.
problem exists with the Michael character. People normally don't enjoy
the ability to visualize the mental impressions of others, and the film
is incredibly coy about the source of Michael's gifts. He basically
shows up on screen and begins reading minds and the audience is left to
accept the premise with no explanation. There was a reason Patrick
Stewart could read minds in "X-Men"
(he was a mutant). While watching "Close Your Eyes", I found
myself wondering what else Michael could do. Can he fly? Walk on water?
Lower my insurance premiums?
Despite the defects of "Close Your Eyes",
the last half hour breathes life into an otherwise tired and confusing
thriller. The killer turns out not to be such a sadist after all, but
more of a paranormal artisan serving a powerful master. His torture
methods are not just the product of a twisted mind, but rather a means
to an end -- and the means don't seem nearly as bizarre when you
understand the end.
That's not to say the movie makes any sense.
"Close Your Eyes" is ridiculous, but the last act elevates it
to the kind of ridiculous that is worth watching despite itself.