I SEE YOU / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR: ADAM RANDALL / SCREENPLAY: DEVON GRAYE / STARRING: HELEN HUNT, JON TENNEY, JUDAH LEWIS, OWEN TEAGUE, LIBE BARER, GREGORY ALAN WILLIAMS / RELEASE DATE: TBC
When a young boy is abducted in the woods near a small coastal town, the home of the detective leading the investigation is beset by odd occurrences as the tormented family address their own issues while they to figure out what’s going on.
I See You starts off mildly intriguing, its litany of strange goings on providing a bizarre mystery that doesn’t seem to conform to any one particular set of rules for hauntings or supernatural occurrences and the like. As well as the mystery, personal issues are also dealt with such as the detective’s wife recently having had an affair and their teenage son now resenting her. It’s an odd mix, and for a while it feels like parts of separate films that have been inexpertly welded together into a single fusion.
In any film involving an abduction, you would imagine that the most emotion would come from the family of the missing child, so the decision to focus events on the domestic drama of someone entirely different seems like a bizarre choice, made all the more egregious when events check in with the investigation, thus periodically reminding you that a more interesting story is playing out elsewhere.
The odd events are shot in such a way that suggest they have been copied from supernatural thrillers without properly understanding what makes them eerie or compelling. Some are filmed from an angle that simply prevents you from seeing the entirety of what’s happening, while others are bizarre but fairly innocuous occurrences that could easily have reasonable explanations, but are portrayed as possibly being the actions of some mischievously malevolent force tormenting the family. Because there is no wider context in which to place them, they appear meaningless in their failure to link into any kind of complete story, and instead come off as exactly what they are: random events that simply aren’t being explained to us.
The mystery is uncovered at the halfway point with a big revelatory moment, and at this point what little cohesion the film previously had completely falls apart. A climactic moment is interrupted with no explanation, and the story then rewinds back to the start with the purpose of making the audience re-examine everything to have so far happened. The film is clearly of the opinion that the twist is one of the most genius pieces of storytelling ever to be encountered, since it then proceeds to make you practically the entire film from this new perspective as it deigns to now show you the truth of what was occurring.
However, far from the narrative neutron bomb it’s presumed to be, the repetition quickly becomes grating upon the realisation the recap isn’t going to be condensed, but that every scene is going to be revisited, growing ever more frustrating with each passing moment. When a further twist is later revealed, it becomes clear just how many coincidental occurrences were required to have crashed together like an intersection pileup for any of the main plot to have actually happened in the first place, further straining its already questionable credibility.
There is nothing at all mysterious or intelligent about simply withholding information, and not realising this is I See You’s primary stumbling point in its lacklustre effort to build compelling ambiguity, along with its unclear sense of what kind of film it’s trying to be, and the lack of understanding of what makes strange mysteries truly compelling.