Intruders menacing the impaired has been a hallmark of home-invasion stories for over a half-century. Unlike Wait Until Dark, Blink or Hush, the evolution in See For Me — available on demand Friday, as well as in limited theatrical release — is that its lead performer, Skyler Davenport, is a person with impairment (in this instance, blindness).
That’s not the only innovative wrinkle in this Canadian import from director Randall Okita and co-writers Adam Yorke and Tommy Gushue. Sophie (Davenport) is neither entirely helpless nor blameless in what transpires as a trio of thieves — seeking millions stashed in a safe — interrupts Sophie’s latest gig providing feline care for fat-cat rich folks. Sophie’s ability to roll with some low blows, and the deception with which Davenport plays it, is part of See For Me’s rough-hewn charm. But at the same time, the film doesn’t lean enough into its distinctions to feel transgressive or transformative within the genre. Meanwhile, the crooks make numerous nonsensical decisions that align more with cinematic aesthetics or limitations than real-world logic and leech the early promise of the first act.
In their breakout onscreen role after a long career in voice work, Davenport plays an alpine skiing champion whose sight and spark are wiped out by retinitis pigmentosa. Sophie could participate in Paralympic competition but has instead chosen a gig-economy sideline … and maybe something a little less noble beyond that. (“If it’s OnlyFans,” Sophie’s overbearing and overprotective mother cautions, “remember that it lasts forever.”) Without a physical outlet, Sophie’s athletic determinism has curdled into curt insistence on as much independence as possible. How could it not? Default responses of “I’m fine” or “No thanks” are a necessary adaptation. And as demonstrated by Sophie’s proactive fact-finding for the newly divorced woman who desperately needs someone to watch her cat, blindness is not uselessness.
It’s this defiance in which Kelly (Jessica Parker Kennedy) finds common ground when Sophie contacts her via See For Me, an app connecting people with blindness to sighted people who can assist with tasks using a phone’s camera. Inadvertently locked out of the swanky, snowy house in the middle of nowhere, Sophie begrudgingly uses her mother’s recommended app for assistance getting back inside. A former Army infantry soldier now on a desk job, Kelly shows Sophie a trick to get inside without causing damage — not entirely sure Sophie isn’t trying to rob the place. Sophie is skeptical and combative. Kelly holds her ground and doesn’t condescend. The trick works, and Sophie is safe.
The doom-synth score by Menalon and pro forma upside-down-shots-of-snowy-road shots let you know Sophie and Kelly will eventually have to team up in a terrible situation. What’s more interesting is the idea that these are two people weary of whatever quid pro quo lies beneath any extended offer of assistance to them. It’s an unspoken, but unmistakable, connection, with which See For Me does frustratingly little — Kelly mentions she “deserves” her desk job with no further elaboration — but at least Davenport and Kennedy create a convincing rapport together.
Kelly is not Sophie’s first call when Otis (George Tchortov), Ernie (Pascal Langdale) and Dave (Joe Pingue) break in after dark. That would be 911. But it’s going to take a long time for cops to get that far out in the mountains, so Kelly becomes Sophie’s eyes to survive this siege if they can work past a dwindling phone battery and dodgy reception. Shrewdly, the filmmakers kick See For Me out of quiet cat-and-mouse mode early, forcing Sophie’s confrontation with the criminals (and, via phone, their patron) while keeping Kelly’s assistance as secret as possible.
Mike Flanagan’s Hush, in which the protagonist was hearing-impaired, will be the most obvious touchstone for See For Me. Outside of impairment, though, these films have little in common. Hush hurled headlong with harrowing slasher-film momentum while See For Me introduces caper complications that, frankly, pin its own hopes of forward progress on flimsy knees. If no one is truly around for miles, why do the thieves turn on a grand total of zero lights in the home to more quickly find Sophie? (The answer is probably found in the ledger for the lighting budget.) If they vigorously weigh the repercussions of simply killing Sophie, why are they so quick to violence against others who arrive later? And why the hell don’t they get on the same page for Ernie’s damn good plan to take a small fall that keeps the big operation alive? Ultimately, See For Me is a fast-moving, moderately engaging meat-and-potatoes thriller with an admirable approach to representation that’s nevertheless tangled by traditional tropes.