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In Your Eyes

Year: 2014
Production Co: Bellwether Pictures
Director: Brin Hill
Writer: Joss Whedon
Cast: Michael Stahl-David, Zoe Kazan, Jennifer Grey, Nikki Reed

You might get excited by seeing Joss Whedon's name in the credits as a writer, but when it's all over you're surprised he actually turned in a script this kind of drab – or maybe it's that director Brin Hill's treatment of it sucked most of the charm or drama out of it. It's not bad exactly, but it's very middle of the road considering it's from one of the most renowned writers in the industry.

Maybe this was around the time his ex wife posted her scathing statement about what a philanderer and fake feminist he'd been all these years, and he was just off his game a bit.

As a young girl, Rebecca is sledding one day, watched over by her over-protective mother, when she loses control and slams into a tree. Across the country in some random classroom, a boy the same age called Dylan has a convulsion and collapses to the floor.

Years later, now both grown, Rebecca is the cute, put-upon wife of a successful doctor living in the snowy northeast and Dylan is an ex con in the New Mexico panhandle towns, trying to stay in the good graces of his parole officer.

When a thug in a bar breaks a pool cue across his back during a fight, Rebecca – attending a swanky party at the time – collapses in pain. The pair (now obvious they're the two kids from the intro, if it wasn't already) are psychically linked somehow, and can feel what happens to each other.

The next day, on his way to a new job and hoping to get his life on track, Dylan can suddenly hear Rebecca talking in his head, and she can hear him. Whatever strange bond connects them across space lets them murmur under their breath (so people nearby don't think they're psychos) and talk to each other. If they concentrate, they can see and hear what the other is experiencing as well.

What they do with this strange new power isn't report it to the CIA (because it isn't sci-fi), or collude to rob banks (because it's not a thriller), but open up to each other and gradually fall in love (because it's a romance fantasy).

When every aspect of her life is controlled by her husband, the timid Rebecca starts to come out of herself and discover who she really is, and Dylan sees the attraction and interest from a good person – instead of the sleazebags and criminals he spends most of his time with – as redemption.

It's not a bad premise, and because it's about two people making a connection and not the science of psychic powers it takes the Groundhog Day approach of not even attempting to explain the phenomenon at the centre of the story.

There's no reason their bond fell silent for 20 years, or that they one day discovered they could hear each other and that's perfectly okay for a movie to do – one of my favourite romance movies, The Age of Adaline, made only the merest concession to explaining the central premise and that movie still worked.

But it just needed something more propulsive at the centre. It's not an action movie so the long period of Dylan and Rebecca getting to know each other and falling for each other further is fine, but after all that build-up, it kind of squanders key moments that should be romantic crescendoes in the drama, like when they first lay eyes on each other in the real world.

Whether those moments were intended or implicit in Whedon's script and the director just wasn't interested in them or they weren't there at all isn't clear, but leaving them out robs the movie of any real opportunity to appeal straight to your heartstrings.

Stahl-David is fine but bland as Dylan, and Kazan is vulnerable and cute as Rebecca, although she does overdo the child-like quality a little bit, seeming at times like a 12 year old kid lost in a department store. It's one of Kazan's specialities as an actress and though she's great at it, this movie relies on it too much (and even more unfortunately for her, I haven't seen her play any other type successfully, any other characterisation making her seem a bit miscast).

There are some nice moments, but they hardly feel like the singing of angels.

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