Posted on Friday, April 25th, 2014 by Angie Han
Despite hitting it big with the billion-dollar smash The Avengers in 2012, Joss Whedon hasn’t lost his taste for smaller indies. One of his latest in that vein is In Your Eyes, a supernatural romance that Whedon wrote and then handed off to Brin Hill to direct.
The film boasts a juicy premise that seems straight out of Buffy. Michael Stahl-David and Zoe Kazan play two strangers who share an unexplained psychic link. Since childhood, they’ve occasionally been able to experience each other’s senses. When she gets into a sledding accident as a kid, for example, he passes out in a classroom thousands of miles away.
For some reason, this connection intensifies in adulthood. The two begin talking to one another (out loud, since while each can hear, see, smell, taste, and touch what the other does, neither can read the other’s mind) and find that they’re able to turn the link on and off. They quickly discover that they have little in common besides that connection. Dylan is a New Mexico ex-con with a heart of gold; Rebecca is a fragile New England housewife. Nevertheless, they strike up a friendship and then a romance.
In its early going, In Your Eyes has promise. Stahl-David and Kazan are playing familiar types, but they’re warm, likable types, and they share an easy chemistry despite the fact that they spend most of the movie apart. Whedon’s lively dialogue helps a great deal in that regard, making it that much easier to tolerate the fact that like 99% of the movie is Stahl-David and Kazan talking to themselves while gazing off into middle distance.
But as the film moves along, it falls further and further short of its potential. The initially intriguing concept gives way to a bland love story. Rebecca and Dylan never really amount to more than their cliches, and their relationship is so perfectly sweet as to be totally boring. You’d think the whole metaphysical connection thing would spice things up, but aside from a couple of inspired moments — one a sex scene, one a fight scene — their link looks basically like a heightened version of FaceTime.
Eventually, though, their picture-perfect romance runs into some outside obstacles. About halfway through the film, Dylan and Rebecca’s acquaintances start getting pretty weirded out by their erratic behavior. Most concerned of all is Rebecca’s husband Philip (Mark Feuerstein), perhaps the most comically awful romantic rival this side of Billy Zane in Titanic. The big conflict in the film arises when he decides to actually do something about those concerns.
In the real world, it’d be entirely rational to worry when a friend suddenly starts spending all his time chatting with an apparently imaginary buddy. Of course, in the real world, it also would’ve been easy for Dylan and Rebecca to head these issues off at the pass by pretending to speak into a Bluetooth headset or at least waiting to talk until they were in private. The generous thing to say is that In Your Eyes subscribes to fairy-tale logic. The less generous thing to say is that it makes no sense.
Maybe the most disappointing thing about In Your Eyes is the way that Hill and Whedon let down the premise. At the risk of criticizing the filmmakers for failing to make a movie they never set out to make, it’s sad to see them waste the wild potential of that concept. Just imagine, for a second, how mind-blowingly insane it would be if you could actually feel everything another human being was feeling. Imagine how how profoundly that would change not just your life, but your very outlook on life. Imagine all of the crazy things you’d try to accomplish, and how foreign it would feel to have someone sharing those senses with you.
Did you do all of that? If so, you’ve already thought more deeply about the premise of In Your Eyes than In Your Eyes itself does. Whedon and Hill faced all of those possibilities, and chose to go the safest, simplest, easiest route they could find. Kazan has accurately described In Your Eyes ”Joss Whedon does Nicholas Sparks.” And while that doesn’t make for a terrible movie, I suspect Whedon doing Whedon would’ve made for a better one.
/Film rating: 5.0 out of 10.0