A new Joss Whedon film is always cause for excitement. Right after his latest, In Your Eyes, premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival, it became available to download and rent online. Huh, interesting. Is this a new idea in releasing films more widely (think Veronica Mars) or is it because Whedon, as the executive producer, realized that $5 a pop from his most rabid fans would be about what this film could garner?
After watching the film, the cynic in me leans towards the latter. The concept of this movie is Romantic Drama 101. Two strangers, on opposite sides of the country and living completely opposite lives, discover that they can feel and talk to each other. After the initial freakout, which both of them get over surprisingly quickly, they begin to talk to each other — all the time.
Dylan (Michael Stahl-David) and Becky (Zoe Kazan) are both living pretty bleak lives at the beginning of this tale. Dylan is on parole and is constantly being tempted to go back to his days of B&E. Becky is hugely damaged, married to a man who controls every aspect of her life. Naturally, as these two begin to interact and to fall in love, they help each other overcome.
As you can imagine, the other people in their lives are concerned that these two people seem to be hearing and talking to voices in their head. Each of these secondary characters is a stock romantic movie character. None of them makes us care for them.
The script is not Joss Whedon at his best. For a man known for writing strong female characters, Becky is the weakest I have come across. She is completely under the control of her husband; she credits this horrible man for saving her; she has no female friends. Worst of all, she needs to be rescued again before the movie ends.
There is the requisite supernatural element. Here, too, the fact that these two can communicate across space is never explained. Nor, is it even addressed. It is just accepted by these two. Becky believes for a moment that she may be going crazy, but she gets over that idea pretty quickly.
It also becomes clear that these two have been able to communicate like this since they were children. It seems a bit odd to me that they would never have wondered about the odd feelings, thoughts and occurrences until now.
It is here that the movie squanders what could have made it great. How Dylan and Becky communicate finally doesn’t matter. But, why? What is it that has enabled these two lost souls to find each other across space? What must it be like to know that someone, somewhere is following your every move and seeing the world through your eyes? What must it be like to see the world through another’s eyes?
Usually, we can count on Whedon to answer these big questions and then to subvert expectations. Throughout, I kept waiting for the great twist, the moment when I knew I was watching a Whedon story. The final half act was especially tense as we all know that Whedon tends to eschew happily ever after. Whether he did or not, I am sure you have figured out by now.
To give Whedon credit, there is a great deal of romantic banter, some of it very good. There are some funny moments and some very sweet moments. It just wasn’t as Whedonesque as I imagined it would be.
What saves this movie is the acting and the directing. Dylan and Becky spend 98% of the movie apart, not the easiest way to portray a romance. Both Stahl-David and Kazan have the requisite chemistry and charisma to make it work. The director, Brin Hill, does a great job of bringing these two together while, at the same time, keeping them apart.
I am a dyed-in-the-wool, sappy romantic so I enjoyed this movie in spite of all its flaws. It made me laugh and it made me cry — even the second time through. If you are like me and like this sort of thing, you will like this. If you don’t, well…
ChrisB is a freelance writer who spends more time than she ought in front of a television screen or with a book in her hand.