A thin premise frays the audience’s patience in this supernatural thriller starring Jessica Alba as Sydney, a concert violinist who has been blind since a childhood accident. Feeling guilty about the incident, her sister Helen (Parker Posey, under- and misused) encourages her to get a corneal transplant, but after the procedure, Sydney begins to see things she shouldn’t.
At first, Sydney’s claims are dismissed by neural specialist Dr. Paul Faulkner (Alessandro Nivola), who has been assigned to help her adjust to suddenly being able to see. But Sydney becomes convinced that she is experiencing cellular memory—that is, when a transplant recipient displays characteristics of the donor—and Paul agrees to help her find out what happened to the woman whose eyes she now has.
Unfortunately, the filmmakers’ intention to call into question whether Syndey could just be losing her mind can never be taken seriously—is it ever that they’re losing their minds?—so the suspense-building over the majority of the film grows tedious. It goes on so long that one feels like she should just accept that she sees dead people and get on with it. By contrast, the action of the climax happens too quickly and feel anti-climactic.
There’s a nice authentic moment in which Sydney sees herself in a mirror for the first time—the image is blurry, so she stretches her mouth wide and sticks out her tongue in order to make out her features—and at least some of the details of her life post-op life seem realistic: She needs to add lamps to her apartment, for example, and she still reads in Braille, having never learned to decode ink marks on a page.
But it’s hard to believe that even the visually impaired wouldn’t have a TV, and any musician would be appalled at Alba’s impersonation of a soloist, so one can imagine there are gaps in her portrayal of a blind person. Most unlikely of all: How exactly do the corneas of a woman who hangs herself in a basement in a small Mexican village make it onto the eyeballs of a Los Angeleno?
Cast: Jessica Alba, Alessandro Nivola and Parker Posey
Directors: David Moreau and Xavier Palud
Screenwriter: Sebastian Guiterrez
Producer: Paula Wagner, Don Granger and Michelle Manning
Rating: PG-13 for violence/terror and disturbing content
Running time: 97 min.
Release date: February 1, 2008