If there’s a better recent piece of cinematic plot problem-solving than the compact thriller “See for Me,” I must’ve missed it. This tight, tense and oh-so-logical home invasion tale brings “Wait Until Dark” into the cell phone era, with suspense that rivals the equally simple “Don’t Breathe.”
What do all three films have in common? There’s a blind protagonist, and somebody’s busted into their house. Director Randall Okita and screenwriters Adam Yorke and Tommy Gushue have to put our heroine in peril and find fresh and inventive ways to get her out of it, some of them having to do with the state of the art assistance-for-the-blind phone apps, such as “Be My Eyes.”
Skyler Davenport plays Sophie, a young downhill ski racer adjusting to life without sight. An accident blinded her, and she’s made “I’ve got this,” “I’m good” her mantra. She doesn’t want help, and doesn’t want pity. Not even from her Mom.
Sophie’s taken on house-sitting/cat-sitting work, and that’s how she’s come to this hillside mansion out of town. She’s quick to dismiss the jetting-out owner (Laura Vandervoort), and just as quick to call up her skiing pal Cam (Keaton Kaplan) when she’s left.
Cam becomes her “eyes,” as she holds up the phone so that he can describe the view, the obstacles and the nature of the place where she’s on duty,
So sure, we glimpse extreme close-ups of the cat, jingling car keys and owner Deborah’s shoes as they cross the floor, showing off Sophie’s newly-heightened hearing that the blind are famous for turning into a sort of movie trope “sonar”. But we can also see Sophie’s got a cheat.
And when she ducks into the owner’s wine cellar, there’s conflict. Because Cam wants nothing to do with the “poor blind girl’s” larceny. She likes stealing and reselling pricey bottles of wine.
When she locks herself out of the house, she can’t very well call Cam again. It’s this newly-loaded app, “See for Me,” that she consults. Thank heavens online first-person shooter game addict Kelly (Jessica Parker Kennedy of “The Flash”) logs off long enough to take Sophie’s “See for Me” request.
And when Sophie hears people break into that mansion later that night, Kelly with See for Me is her second call, after 9-1-1.
Some problems a canny viewer will see that need to be solved. Sophie has to hold her brightly-lit phone up to get Kelly the visuals she needs to give directions and try and get the blind blonde out of this jam. She’s doing this in a dark house. Surely the villains could find her in a flash, even if Sophie’s hearing Kelly’s directions via an earpiece.
It’s unfamiliar turf, Sophie has no idea where or how to hide from the intruders. They’re guys. They’re bigger and stronger than our admittedly pretty fit ex-athlete. And there are cops on the way.
Screenwriters Yorke and Gushue keep finding new layers to add to Sophie, who is both reluctant to take up blind Paralympics skiing (which also requires a guide) and not shy about stealing or taking other risks to fill the adrenalin gap that losing sports has taken from her life.
The story takes twists we don’t see coming, not all of them logical or morally defensible. We loose track of the “Die Hard” dynamic that having that “helper,” Kelly, guiding our heroine out of a jam, provides.
But Davenport, an actress with mostly streaming series and video game credits, more than holds her own and commands all our attention, if not always all of our sympathy. Kennedy is more sympathetic, and her character is given other “very particular skills” that don’t really add to the plot save for justifying her character’s cool under pressure. Unnecessary.
Director Okita, who did “The Locksmith,” laudably leaves titillation out of the equation. Our two protagonists are attractive young women, but they could be anybody. Okita skips the cheesecake and keeps the movie on the move, making much use of the spacious interiors and immediate exteriors of this modern showplace of a mansion.
The ending may be a tad too pat for my taste, and the many little climaxes along the way tend to spoil some of the edge-of-our-seat suspense that this or that sequence is building towards.
But I’m still tipping my hat to all involved here. “See for Me” takes a time-honored thriller plot and techs it up without pulling its punches, and without ever giving away where it’s going.
Rating: unrated, violence
Cast: Skyler Davenport, Jessica Parker Kennedy and Kim Coates.
Credits: Directed by Randall Okita, scripted by Adam Yorke and Tommy Gushue. An IFC Midnight release.
Running time: 1:33,