Looks like 2022 is off to a promising start, 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 whether the money came from OnlyFans or a sugar daddy. 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, along with screenwriters Adam Yorke and Tommy Gushue, has a knack for misdirection that prevents 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 with “Hush,” where the heroine was deaf and mute, and the two movies would make a killer double feature.) Davenport, whom you may have trouble believing is making their feature debut, plays Sophie as cynical, bitter, and unafraid of using her condition to her benefit. 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. A few slight missteps aside, the film hits its stride once the title and its implications come into focus: See for Me is a video-call app that connects the visually impaired to sighted helpers, which Sophie reluctantly uses after locking herself out of the house and taking a rare liking to Kelly (Jessica Parker Kennedy), the army veteran on the other end of the line. 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” above 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. With the theatrical situation being what it is at the moment, “See for Me” itself seems destined to end up on a more esteemed list: solid genre films that deserve a bigger audience.
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