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These movies say seeing requires an act of belief

One is a thriller and the other is a family drama, but both revolve around the idea that seeing requires an act of belief

Two movies this week could not be more different - one is a psychological thriller and the other, a family drama - but both revolve around the idea that seeing requires an act of belief.

Unless you believe something is there, you are blind to it, even if it is right in front of you.

In the psychological thriller All I See Is You (R21, 110 minutes, opens tomorrow , 2 stars), the act of seeing is literal.

Blake Lively plays Gina, a woman who has been blind for much of her life. She has never seen her husband James, played by Australian actor Jason Clarke. They live in Bangkok's expat bubble and seem settled in their lives.

But things take a turn after she receives a donated cornea. Her life grows richer and more varied as more of her sight returns; her growing self-confidence allows her to explore the city on her own.

Director and co-writer Marc Foster exercises flair in depicting what it is like to have vision that is returning in fits and starts. At first, the use of Bangkok seems peripheral to the story - might this be a case of using the city as budget-price exotica? - but Foster, helmer of the Oscar-winning Monster's Ball (2001), uses its canals and flower markets as places where Gina's sense of herself as a person grows, along with her sharpening sight.

Clarke uses his impressive physical presence to menacing effect as the husband perturbed by his wife's growing independence; she is his pet, one that he does not want to see set free, at almost any cost.


Gina (played by Blake Lively, above with Jason Clarke) regains her sight in All I See Is You, while Sarah (Tan Qin Lin, with Shaun Tam) notices that her grandfather has trouble remembering people and places in Before We Forget. PHOTO: ABC

While this has interesting moments, Foster seems unable to follow the story into as deep or dark a place as it should go and the ambiguity in the storytelling is unwarranted and frustrating to witness.


Gina (played by Blake Lively,with Jason Clarke) regains her sight in All I See Is You, while Sarah (Tan Qin Lin, above with Shaun Tam) notices that her grandfather has trouble remembering people and places in Before We Forget. PHOTO: THREE PICTURES

Malaysian writer-director Jess Teong's Before We Forget (PG, 115 minutes, opens Friday, 3 stars) is the follow-up to last year's The Kid From The Big Apple.

This is a sequel largely in name: The odd-couple conflict between Westernised child Sarah (Tan Qin Lin) and traditional Chinese grandfather Gen (Hong Kong legend Ti Lung) that drove that last movie has been resolved and the pair are now close.

A new crisis lies at the core of the new Mandarin-language drama-comedy, filmed around Malaysia's largest city.

Sarah and her single-parent mum Sophia (actress Debbie Goh, replacing Jessica Hsuan) are living with Gen in his Kuala Lumpur apartment for the time being and all is well until Sarah and friend Jia Bao (Jason Tan) notice that the senior has trouble remembering people and places.

The grown-ups, horrified at the implications, are in denial, while the kids devise an action plan.

As in the last film, Teong plucks hard at the funny bone and the heartstrings - quite often too hard - but as Gen, a man aware that he may lose all memory of the people who love him most, Ti Lung proves to be a richly evocative actor.

There is a scene in which he grieves for his long-lost wife at a home altar that is a masterclass in melancholy.

Teong is more than capable of finding such raw, honest moments, but too often, she presses the pause button for musical interludes and mini-skits involving the children that are more distracting than useful.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 15, 2017, with the headline 'Seeing is believing'. Print Edition | Subscribe