See For Me has a strong gimmick at its core, but the film wastes most of its potential on bland, overly safe execution.
This review of See For Me is spoiler-free.
See For Me is, like most home-invasion thrillers, set in a home that seems designed to be broken into. You know how it goes. Elaborate security systems are there to be bypassed; wine cellars exist to be hidden in; every bit of modern technology can factor into the suspense. You’d never want to live in any of these places, but they’re usually fun to visit.
Perhaps this is why Sophie (Skyler Davenport, legally blind in real life), a former Olympic hopeful skier whose loss of vision has made her deeply resentful and dangerously independent, spends time in so many. She’s in this one, a mansion in wintry upstate New York made almost entirely of glass, to cat-sit for the wealthy owner, who is swanning off on a trip to take the sting out of a recent divorce. But it’s really a grift. She’s there for something to do, and that something includes the fencing of expensive goods that the owners are too wealthy to miss. After all, who’d suspect the poor little blind girl?
This morally ambiguous trait isn’t just flavor – it actually becomes a plot point later, when goons break into the house believing it to be empty and set about trying to drill their way into a safe filled with stacks of cash. Director Randall Okita wrings one scene of suspense out of it before retreating into the safety of an edgeless formula that tip-toes around Sophie’s lack of sight while trying to hit the expected beats as competently as possible. Most of the details you notice that seem important end up not being, and a careful opening that establishes lots of intriguing minor details that go into the everyday life of a blind person is promptly forgotten about. The answer to every difficult question Sophie is presented with ends up being the same – there’s an app for that.
The app is the titular See For Me, which is based on a real-life one called Be My Eyes. It connects a blind or low-vision person to a sighted volunteer, so that, through video call, they can be talked through whatever predicament they find themselves in. The idea is to help with mundane stuff – Sophie first uses the app when she locks herself out of the house, and the volunteer she’s connected with, Kelly (Jessica Parker Kennedy), explains how her previous assignment was reading the expiration date on someone’s milk. But it quickly reveals its usefulness in thwarting a home invasion, since Kelly just so happens to be ex-military and an avid player of first-person shooters who gets to turn Sophie, essentially, into Doomguy.
The problem with this ripe premise is largely Sophie herself, who is angry and stubborn and unwilling to accept help she obviously needs. She isn’t likable, but that’s fine since her attitude is understandable and also makes for an interesting dynamic between her and Kelly that I wish the film spent more time developing. As things stand, the film’s screenwriters, Adam Yorke and Tommy Gushue, side-line the app for too long, trying to give Sophie too much agency when the dynamic between her and Kelly is easily the most intriguing thing about the film. On the one hand, it’s understandable not to want to make too much of a victim of someone with an impairment, but on the other, thrillers like this require a kind of peril that See For Me never quite seems willing to sustain.
There are so many smart ways in which this gimmick could have been used that it’s profoundly disappointing to see how few the film comes up with. Even on a character level, it’s light, failing to really dig into Sophie’s feelings or address the morality of Kelly blithely ordering her to shoot the intruders dead. That detachment between gamer and game, the idea of desensitization to second-hand violence, would have made a worthy theme, especially how it blurs the lines between reality and fiction and leaves Sophie stuck in the middle. But like everything else in See For Me, it’s a good idea left disappointingly unexplored.