"I can’t help feeling that this film ruins a terrific story, by the heavy use
of Hollywood’s most reusable resource: schmaltz. The problem is not that the script
twists and convulses the factual story in Dr Sacks’ book but that it fails to fill it
with real characters. It’s a glossy version of a rigorous story, given the
glamourisation treatment – which is to real drama what ‘colorization’ is to
black and white.
The script drains the factual story of resonances so that the characters
are simplified: the blind man is angry because his father left when he was a kid; the
sister has been supporting her blind brother, robbed of a life of her own; the young woman
who falls for the blind masseur is divorced from a jerk… these are simplistic
backdrops for characters who go through major emotional turmoil.
This homogenisation is
perhaps the most frequent failing of Hollywood-produced dramas – it suggests a kind
of immaturity which has to feign the human condition as if we couldn’t handle the
real thing without protective goggles."
Andrew L. Urban
"There are many fascinating concepts canvassed in this extraordinary story, yet it
falls short of being a great film, due to a dose of sentimentality, and a script that is a
little long. Yet At First Sight is appealing in many ways as it takes us on a somewhat
philosophical journey, where we can explore our perceptions and what we often take for
granted. I wish more emphasis had been placed on this aspect of the story, rather than the
stumbling romance, which never really satisfies.
Val Kilmer creates a poignant, memorable
character into whose world we glimpse. Mira Sorvino has been struggling to find a suitable
role since her Oscar winning performance in Mighty Aphrodite. This is certainly an
improvement on her roles in Mimic and Replacement Killers, but somehow we do not totally
connect. Kelly McGuiness is terrific as the caring sister – her performance is
insightful, contained and very real. For the senses, there's a delectable soundtrack,
picturesque settings and beautiful lensing by our own John Seale.
Spiked with insight and
occasional touches of humour, At First Sight invites us to take a frank look at the human
condition, when life is not always black and white, nor do we always see without
"The original idea for At First Sight was a story (based on true life events) written by Oliver Sacks, the psychiatrist and author. The film turns out to be essentially Awakenings (another Sacks' story) with a love story mixed in; resulting in a lengthy (2 hours plus) and ultimately uninvolving film.
Despite its intriguing premise - a blind person given a chance at sight - the clumsy script lets down what could have been a fine film. Its main problem is failing to credit the audience's intelligence, meaning it lays out everything laboriously lest you should miss it. Also, its treatment of Virgil is less than successful.
Notwithstanding Kilmer's best efforts, the character comes across as a self-centred jerk. As any film student will tell you, this is not a good thing for a romantic lead. Mira Sorvino's performance is definitely the highlight of the film. She brings a vulnerability and charm to Amy that makes her a much more rounded and credible character. Nathan Lane also makes an appearance as a therapist loosely modelled on Sacks himself, and manages to effortlessly steal his scenes.
The film is at its best when dealing with the medical aspects of Virgil's condition, and many of these scenes are strong. Unfortunately, the love story fails to engage, and there's a distinct lack of spark between the leads. As a result, At First Sight ends up being an inoffensive but rather bland experience."