Movie Review

At First Sight

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for scenes involving sexuality and nudity, and for brief strong language

Reviewed by: Mia J. Burruss
CONTRIBUTOR

Average
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teens Adults
Genre:
Drama

Starring: Val Kilmer, Mira Sorvino, Kelly McGillis, Steven Weber, Bruce Davison, Nathan Lane, Ken Howard, Kerry Barden, Allison Smith, Suzanne Smith | Director: Irwin Winkler

Learning to see with the eyes is limited to our dimensional world. There is so much more to our existence than our physical realm. Our eyes only give us information that the mind must interpret, filter through…

The most important things about life must be embraced with the heart.

It takes a blind man to open up Amy’s world to things unseen, but very real, like faith and love. You cannot see faith or love, only its results.

A delightful love story between a blind masseuse, Virgil, and a sucessful architect, Amy, “At First Sight”, explores the very definition of what seeing is.

Sight-seeing takes on a new meaning in the movie “At First Sight” (MGM). Based on real events recounted by Dr. Oliver Sacks in his story “To See and Not to See,” “At First Sight” reveals that the most important things in life must be embraced with the heart.

Amy Bernic, portrayed by Academy Award winner Mira Sorvino, begins learning this lesson when she meets blind masseuse Virgil Adamson (Val Kilmer). Stressed out from owning and running an architecture firm in New York City, Amy travels upstate for some much needed rest. She meets calm, charismatic and handsome Virgil at the resort after signing up for a daily massage.

Virgil and Amy immediately form a bond and begin cultivating a more personal relationship. Much to the dismay of Virgils overprotective sister, Jenny (Kelly McGillis), Amy suggests an experimental surgery to restore Virgils eyesight. Not wanting to lose Amy, Virgil agrees to the surgery and his sight is restored. But all get more than they bargained for.

Through Virgil’s experiences, the movie explores what seeing actually is. Intelligent and well adjusted as a blind man, Virgil is like a fish out of water as a sighted man. All his life he has learned through sound, smell and touch. Now his whole world is turned into chaos because of his newfound sight. He is actually more handicapped and dependent as a sighted person initially than he was as a man who could not physically see.

The couple enlists the help of Dr. Phil Webster (Nathan Lane) to help Virgil become born again as a sighted person. Dr. Webster is unorthodox, but honest. Nathan Lane as Dr. Webster certainly adds humor to the film.

Both Virgil and Amy learn that sight is more than just functioning of the eye organs. Amy describes a horizon for Virgil. When Virgil receives his sight, he looks for the horizon, which is impossible to see in the heart of New York City surrounded by skyscrapers. He comments that just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it is not there. Amy’s reply is “Yes. That’s what faith is, I guess.”

Kilmer displays his skill as a master of his craft by convincing audiences he is blind. The way he lifts his head up and away from the person he is talking to, never forming a direct face-to-face line, is one of many subtle ways Kilmer proves his believability. When Virgil’s eyes are opened, Kilmer stumbles around awkwardly as a large child encountering things for the first time. Kilmer is careful not to overplay the dramatic and portrays Virgil Adamson as a real person who audiences can relate to.

Mira Sorvino is fair at her portrayal of Amy. She doesn’t take away from the film. Unfortunately, her performance doesn’t add much to it either. Kilmer brings the power and the passionate to their scenes together.

Renowned director/producer Irwin Winkler captained “At First Sight”. Most acclaimed as a producer of “Rocky”, Winkler also directed “The Net” (1995) and “Guilty by Suspicion” (1989).

Technically, the film could have been more visually creative. Clearly Winkler chose to focus on the romantic aspects developing between Virgil and Amy rather than the opportunity for glossy special effects.

There are several occasions when God’s name is used as profanity. There is some brief nudity. Overall, “At First Sight” is an entertaining movie that explores sight on a deeper level than merely your physical dimensions.

Even with 20/20 vision, “At First Sight” tunes the vision for things unseen like faith and love. After viewing the movie, one cannot help but to be more aware of things unseen and more appreciative of the things that can be seen.

Year of Release—1999

Viewer Comments
Overall, what I enjoyed most about this movie was the portrayal of becoming a sighted person after blindness. Beware of the opening context. As a massage therapist I strongly object to the sexuality brought into the massage. Our profession does not teach, encourage or tolerate sexual involment in the context of our work.
—Suzy Golden, age 42
I like some things about this movie and all of those came at the end of the movie. The first half of the movie was filled with nudity. These scences especially the bar scene were not needed!!!

Also, I did not like Val Kilmer’s portryal of a blind man… I did like some things about the movie. I liked the scene where Val Kilmer first regains his sight, it is done well. I also was sad when he began to lose his sight again. It made me feel for his character but that was the only time I felt for him. Overall, the movie was far, I would NOT go see it again though.
—Anonymous
I had mixed feelings about this movie when I went to see it and left the theater with the same mixed feelings. I agree with the viewer and thought that Val Kilmer portrayal of a blind man was spectacular but Mira Sorvino could have brought more to the film than she did. As a Christian, I was deeply dissapointed to see how quickly Virgil and Amy’s relationship turned sexual… but what else can we expect from Hollywood? The scene in which Virgil tells Amy that just because you can’t see something doesn’t mean it’s not there impressed me.

I found myself applying that little nugget of wisdom in my Christian life as the moviewent on. By the end of the movie I was dissapointed with the storyline. With Virgiland Amy rushing into a sexual relationship and the intense argumentsbetween the two I wasn’t convinced at the end that the two were truly inlove when the credits started to roll. I left wondering if the movie trulydid end, “Happily Ever After.” My suggestion to people interested in seeing this movie? Save your moneyand wait until it comes out on video.
—Lori Stanley, age 19