It’s a bit padded, and the ending is trite, but In Your Eyes is a sweetly realized and moving fantasy romance.
Brin Hill’s In Your Eyes, written by geek deity Joss Whedon, is essentially a film about how conversation can lead to romance, but more than that, it’s about how a romantic presence in our lives can make us appear a little bit nutty to the outside world. The two lead actors may seem like boilerplate-pretty, typical white romantic leads, but they are allowed to casually talk, slowly revealing little character foibles, and eventually become friendly and appealing (Zoe Kazan, especially). Whedon’s greatest strength as a screenwriter, I have come to discover, seems to be creating lighthearted and appealing people who converse well. And while his characters can occasionally come across as a bit too flippant for their own good (I have heard several critics complain about the samey-ness of his leads) and he tends to get lost in his broad fantasy conceits, here he seems to have reined himself in a bit, allowing the story to grow from the characters and not the other way around. Hill and Whedon seem to be a good match.
Kazan plays a rich married New Hampshire socialite named Rebecca. Michael Stahl-David plays a lonely lower-class New Mexico ex-con named Dylan. All through their lives, these two have been oddly psychically connected, a connection which manifests itself one days when they are adults. They can see through each other’s eyes, converse out loud, and feel each other’s touching. They begin to have conversations, pretty much elated to have these new voices in their heads that they can shoot the breeze with. Having that presence in each other’s lives – private, their own – effects them both for the better. She becomes happier and more assertive. Knowing that a woman may be watching him at all times, Dylan begins to clean up his awful trailer. They’re essentially on a 24-hour psychic Skype with one another.
The comic possibilities for this setup are explored in fun, creative ways. One can help the other fix their car. In one scene, Dylan goes on a date, and Rebecca carefully set the time aside to openly spy on him. Dylan sniffs dirty laundry at the same time Rebecca is smelling groceries. These comic moments are told with a light touch, and never feel dumb or slapstick. This was a conceit I have seen explored before in both the G.I. Joe cartoon and in the 2007 cult shocker I Know Who Killed Me, but it works the best here. It won’t take long before our two leads give into the halcyon tone, and predictably begin falling in love. This makes sense. The intimacy they share seems to have taken over their lives. Their respective peers think they are both crazy, and I kind of wish they had thought to cover up their public conversations with Bluetooths (Blueteeth?).
Zoe Kazan is an actress I’ve been eyeballing since I saw her in a supporting role in the largely-forgotten 2007 film Fracture. She is a sensitive, pretty, natural actress who can bring out the humanity in whatever role she plays. She is the perfect fit for a moody romance like In Your Eyes, because we like her instantly. The filmrer works as well as it does largely thanks to her performance. Even when In Your Eyes begins to drag through the middle (and the setup does sound more appropriate for a short film, now that I think of it), Kazan is still appealing.
The film’s ending is, sadly, protracted and dumb, and involves a hastily introduced plot conceit that requires a clichéd race-across-the-airport, a chase, and a bizarre action film-like prison escape. I would have preferred that the stakes be resolved emotionally, rather than with actions. Will our two lovers meet in person, or will being connected by remote be enough? And in a world where people connect on social networks, maintain relationships over cell phones, and can actually foster marriage through Twitter, how important is it to meet in person? These notions are appealingly brushed up against, even if they are largely brushed aside for a more obvious climax.
One must admire screenwriter Whedon’s work ethic. Although he’s a beloved icon in the geek community, and is best known for writing and directing the biggest superhero blockbuster to date (meaning he can pretty much write anything, and his fans will follow), he is still eager to explore smaller stories in smaller venues, as proved by In Your Eyes and his own low-budget, shot-at-his-house, nice-try Shakespeare adaptation Much Ado About Nothing last year. I think writers and directors are more interesting when they are working with limits. Hill’s direction should not be overlooked either; He provides an emotional touch.
In Your Eyes is available online only, and will not be released in theaters, as far as I can tell. It maybe be given a Blu-ray and DVD release eventually. It’s worth the five bucks it takes to rent it.
Rating: 3.5 Burritos