A movie as forgettable as its title.
Love Is Blind plays like the movie equivalent of a morose B-side from a Cure cover band where the knockoffs finally get a shot to show us what they have, but the result turns out tepid and scattershot. Directed by the team of Monty Whitebloom and Andy Delaney, whose credits were earned mostly for commercials, the film gorgeously frames and captures the verdant landscape of upstate New York, saturating the colors to give every setting a heightened, unreal feel. While a contemporary story dealing with themes of grief, loss and mental illness through realistic and fantasy images, the film plods through most of its brief runtime seeking a point of view, creating a void its three main characters seek to fill with their various quirks.
Screenwriter Jennifer Schuur, owner of an impressive resumé that includes the television series “Big Lies” and “Hannibal,” mistakes distress for poignancy, fashioning what looks like a Kenneth Lonergan film, but without the focus or perspective. The story revolves around three characters: Bess Krafft (Shannon Tarbet), a young woman who has made a psychosis of pleasing people that is so intense she is unable to physically perceive her mother, Carolyn (Chloë Sevigny), who once rejected her; Farmer Smithson (Benjamin Walker), a doctoral student in psychology who is Bess’ therapist/lover and on the autism spectrum; and Russell Hank (Aidan Turner), a construction worker that is demolishing the building behind Farmer’s office and is also suicidal. The film begins with a voiceover by Russell, one of many, stating that this is a film about how we see the world, a motif augmented by Bess’ apprenticeship to an optometrist where she is seen cleaning lenses. An ethereal cover of Radiohead’s “Creep” plays over the opening credits to leave no doubt that all is not well with these characters.
Bess, Farmer and Russell wrestle for our attention in a collective display of despondency that feels almost competitive. Bess’ father, Murray (Matthew Broderick), has entered the later stages of Parkinson’s, and she distracts herself from her grief by caring for him. At least she thinks she does, because her mother is really doing that. The actions she takes in her life seem empty and performative. She assumes roles, including Farmer’s lover, though she doesn’t really love him, and seeks emotional jolts through spurts of kleptomania. Farmer’s autism is the mountain he cannot summit in his connections with people. And Russell cannot be trusted near a telephone cord or guitar string without exercising a suicidal tendency.
Bess finally wins the main character derby after the film’s most intriguing moment, a dance sequence intercut between the characters in their separate homes, and the fairy tale construction begins in earnest. She drives around her town and forest in a red mustang that substitutes for her riding hood with the two men in her life sharing the role of wolf. In the final analysis they share an emotional abuse triangle with a happy ending and potential resolutions, but, to use the dreaded term, very little of it is earned.
As the performance go, it is fortuitous the story settled on Bess as its lead. Shannon Tarbet is luminous in her portrayal of a young woman searching for an inner life and proves able to supply for her character what the text does not. Walker plays Farmer with the analytical distance that has become Hollywood shorthand for autism, leaving the actor with little more than a slightly more nuanced Sheldon Cooper. As a presence onscreen, Aidan Turner and Russell are all but indistinguishable. You pine for them, but you can’t quite love the actor or character. He doesn’t find a way for you to care beyond the brooding.
The great crime that Whitebloom, Delaney and Schuur commit here is believing the unexamined elements of their film won’t cause distraction. They seem to believe they can construct a world of overt material privilege and leave the questions of how that wealth was acquired unanswered. The fairy tale comes less from Bess learning to see someone she’s made invisible through true love and more from the idea that people wouldn’t fear the cost of an extended hospital stay or brain surgery. This is a story that names itself one about perception, but its creators offer little beyond the surface, and that’s not enough to matter. In the end, what is displayed here is a movie as forgettable as its title.