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There’s a very fine line between the charm of whimsy and the cloying feeling of something trying too hard. In the world of artsy indie film-making, the balancing act is often the make-or-break of a work. More often than not, what seems quaint and quirky on the page, translates to forehead-slappingly saccharine and stupid. Love is Blind, falls very much into the latter category.
It’s a real shame considering the depth of talent involved. This may be the first feature effort from co-directors Whitebloom and Delaney, but they’ve been directing music videos for stars like Paula Abdul and The Spice Girls since the late 80s. Chloe Sevigny, Matthew Broderick and Benjamin Walker each give the high calibre of performances you’d expect, while Shannon Tarbet does what she can with something of a thanklessly obtuse role. Even Poldark himself, Aidan Turner, turns in a commendable American accent narrating abstractly about life and death, while brooding or looking pained. But ultimately the culprit that sinks the ship is the script by Hannibal and The Good Place alumnus Jennifer Schuur, which tries so hard to be clever, yet instead just becomes monotonous and ridiculous.
The film begins promisingly, with a tantalising opening where it’s clear that all is not as it seems. 21 year-old Bess (Tarbet) is caring for her Parkinson’s-afflicted father (Broderick). His situation is grim, and adding to his daughter’s strife, he insists that his wife (Sevigny) is still alive and very much present in the house. Outside of the home, things are even stranger; as Bess is regularly seeing local psychiatrist (Walker), who has crippling OCD and high-functioning Asperger’s syndrome. Thrown into this mix is Russell (Turner) a semi-suicidal tradesman demolishing the building adjoining the psychiatrist’s office. Between them the story spins a multitude of oddly-connected scenes with little in the way of sense, as everyone various fails to cope with their mental issues in different ways. Culminating in a conclusion that feels forced, vapid and utterly ridiculous.
It’s a frustrating film to watch, in part because on paper all the ingredients of a good film are here. The problems are that the focus characters are never real enough to be engaging or endearing; whilst the more normal and likeable characters, turn out to be little more than extended cameos. It comes as no surprise that Love is Blind has been languishing in “release hell” since being filmed in 2015. In truth, it smacks of a film that was probably longer, and has been hacked down in the edit, to better find an audience. Quite tellingly, the US release of the film carries the somewhat less twee title, Beautiful Darkness; it also features a marketing campaign that far better suits the quirky tone and hipster-cool vibe. Contrastingly, the poster art for the UK release seems to be selling a conventional romantic comedy, which this film certainly is not.