The promising start of 2022 looks promising, courtesy Of “See for Me,” a home-invasion drama in which the young woman tasked with defending said home — and, just as importantly, the cat who lives there — is blind. It’s rare that the first week of the year brings a notable performance, but Skyler Davenport’s lead turn in director Randall Okita’s no-nonsense thriller (which debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival last summer) will be worth remembering well after the January doldrums have passed.
Sophie (Davenport) is sneaking out of the house, and we don’t know why. Neither does her mother (Natalie Brown), for that matter: She catches her twentysomething daughter just before she’s made it out the door, telling the would-be escapee she’s “seen the deposits”And asking if the money came from OnlyFans. Sophie insists it was just a tip from her latest housesitting gig and that she’s simply on her way to a new one, but it still feels like something’s amiss. There is, of course, but it probably isn’t what you’re expecting. Okita and screenwriters Adam Yorke, Tommy Gushue have a knack of misdirection that keeps the film from ever feeling predictable.
If we don’t actually realize for another couple scenes that Sophie’s blind, it’s because “See for Me” doesn’t define its heroine by her disability — even if it does play perfectly into its attention-grabbing premise. Mike Flanagan did something similar for “Hush,”Where the heroine was deaf, mute, the two movies would make an excellent double feature. Davenport, who you might have difficulty believing is their feature debut, plays Sophie. She is cynical and bitter and not afraid to use her condition to her advantage. It turns out that deposit her mother saw was from a pricey bottle of wine Skyler lifted from the last house she sat, a side hustle she sees no reason not to continue — even if the friend who reluctantly helps her with it (Keaton Kaplan) would rather she go back to the ski slopes where she felt most at home before losing her vision.
“You have the courage to rob a house but not to let me guide you down a hill?” said friend asks Sophie in one of the few on-the-nose exchanges, hinting at both Sophie’s underlying pain and the moral gray areas she’s comfortable exploring. Although there are some minor mistakes, the film works well once the title and its implications become clear. See for Me is an app that connects the visually impaired with sighted helpers. Sophie reluctantly uses it after locking herself out and showing a rare interest in Kelly (Jessica Parker Kennedy), who is an army veteran. Once the three thieves break in later that night, the house’s remote location makes Kelly a better ally than the faraway police.
In more ways than one, Sophie refuses to be a victim — and the most compelling of those ways, which shan’t be revealed here, makes her much harder to pin down as a character and further elevates “See for Me”It is more than its genre ilk. She doesn’t do a single thing that will have you yelling at the screen, with the filmmakers avoiding every irritating trope we’ve come to associate with the home-invasion genre, instead approaching the life-or-death situation with the same calm and clarity she brought to her distinguished skiing career.
“You can’t steal what’s already stolen,” we’re told at a pivotal moment, and though “See for Me” isn’t as insightful as it is thrilling, you’ll likely be too immersed in the drama to notice. It’s as though Okita, Yorke and Gushue made a list of every mistake similar films have made in the past and set to eschew all of them. Given the current theatrical situation, “See for Me”The film seems to be destined for a higher ranking: films of solid genre that are more popular.